As a Lewis County District Court judge for nearly 25 years, retired judge Mike Roewe met and mentored dozens of young deputy prosecutors who came through his courtroom.
One in particular “immediately stood out,” he said.
“I became convinced Joely (O’Rourke) had all the qualifications and attributes that one looks for in a trial judge,” he said.
When he retired in 2015, Roewe urged O’Rourke to run for District Court judge.
“Luckily for Superior Court, she said ‘no,’” he said.
Joely O’Rourke was sworn in as Lewis County Superior Court Judge at 1 p.m. Monday. Retiring Superior Court Judge Richard Brosey, who O’Rourke is replacing, presided over her oath of office.
“This is surreal,” O’Rourke said after taking the bench for the first time as a Superior Court Judge, before saying she was struggling to not get emotional.
Lewis County commissioners, other elected officials and both sitting and retired Lewis County judges attended Monday’s ceremony.
“This is an important day for Joely, it’s an important day for Lewis County and I want to thank everyone for being here,” said Superior Court Judge James Lawler, who presided over the ceremony.
Superior Court Judges Nelson Hunt and Brosey both announced their retirement about a year ago.
Andrew Toynbee, who was elected to replace retiring Judge Hunt in Superior Court Position 1, was sworn into office last week.
O’Rourke won the election for Department 3 with about 70 percent of the vote, defeating challenger Katherine Gulmert, an attorney with an office in Chehalis.
O’Rourke was supported by every sitting judge and many retired judges in her election effort, including Roewe.
“It is truly a wonderful and historical day,” he said Monday.
O’Rourke first started working in Chehalis at the Lewis County Prosecutor’s Office in 2009.
Before that, she worked as an special agent in Navy Criminal Investigative Services.
O’Rourke thanked Hunt, Brosey and Lawler, as well as district and municipal court judges for helping her and having confidence in her ability to do the job. She thanked Superior Court Administrator Susie Parker, County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer and Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecutor Brad Meagher.
“It was a privilege to work for both of you,” she said.
O’Rourke thanked her parents for supporting her through educational twists and turns, her husband, attorney Shane O’Rourke, for always believing in her, and her son, Brock, for patiently helping during her campaign.
She also thanked a former coworker, former Lewis County deputy prosecutor Colin Hayes, for helping her get the job at the prosecutor’s office that brought her to Lewis County, “by saving my resume from the garbage after my future husband discarded it,” she said. “True story.”
O’Rourke closed her comments by saying that she doesn’t take the responsibilities of her new position lightly and recited a quote from Edmund Burke, an Irish author and political theorist from the 1700s.
“It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason and justice tell me I ought to do,” she recited.