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Rambo new chancellor

Washington County Attorney John Rambo was in his office preparing for the Aug. 5 called meeting of the county commission when he received a call from Herbert Slaterly, attorney to Gov. Bill Haslam, regarding the chancellorship for the 1st Judicial District.
“He said they had reviewed all of the work experience and carefully considered the interviews, and the governor believed I was the right fit,” Rambo said. “He complimented me on my qualifications, and said (Haslam) was excited to make the appointment. I told my wife first and my mom second, but I didn’t tell anyone else until I got the all-clear.”
News of the appointment was circulating among commissioners via text message by the end of the two-hour meeting, and after adjourning, Commissioner Sam Humphreys invited others to say hello to the new chancellor.
Rambo and the other two finalists for the opening, Regina Shepherd and Gregory Bowers who both have practices in Elizabethton, each interviewed separately with Slaterly and Haslam on July 10 in Nashville.
“The governor was well-prepared and knew what he wanted to talk about,” Rambo said, referring to specific inquiries about cases he has handled during his career as opposed to pat questions such as, “Why do you want to be a judge?”
According to Rambo, it is also very clear that in the four weeks since the interviews, Haslam and Slaterly have done an extensive, exhaustive background search on each of the finalists.
Saying he was glad to have an answer, Rambo has already begun reviewing the schedules for Washington County Chancery Court and was officially sworn into office on Aug. 10 by Judge Thomas J. Seeley during the Courthouse Centennial Celebration. He replaces Chancellor Richard Johnson, who retired from the position at the end of June.
The transition will include no break, no vacation, and a little bit of double duty for Rambo.
“There is a lot of work already waiting since a judge has been off the bench, so there will be some catch-up,” he said.
While any current cases he is working on as county attorney will have to go into pending status because he can’t appear in the courtroom as a lawyer, Rambo has some big projects he wants to close as in-house counsel for Washington County.
“I can still complete the resolutions for the bond counsel’s opinion and sign off on the $10 million debt offering,” he said. “It wouldn’t be fair to throw a new lawyer in at the end of that.”
Commissioners have been behind Rambo’s pursuit of the chancellor position from the beginning, issuing a formal commitment of support during the May meeting and directing Chair Greg Matherly to send a letter to Haslam recommending him for the job.
Rambo said he appreciates the people and officials of Washington County for allowing him to serve as county attorney for the last 14 years, and the Town of Jonesborough for allowing him to serve as Municipal Court judge for the last 13 years.
“I am humbled by the responsibility to serve the four counties of East Tennessee as chancellor,” he said. “I will work hard and do everything I can to provide justice in a fair way for all people in Chancery Court.”
The Legal Services Oversight Committee will consider the next step for Washington County, which could include hiring an interim attorney while the commission considers a long-range plan.