More than 45 people filled Joe and Carol Gallagher’s Louisville lakefront home Sunday for lunch but their minds were on more than just the lasagna from Giovanni’s restaurant.
They came to see and hear Blount County Circuit Court Judge Mike Meares talk about the issues and his campaign to win the job that Gov. Phil Bredesen gave him seven months ago. The governor named Meares to the position after Judge D. Kelly Thomas, Jr. was elevated to the Criminal Court of Appeals.
The individuals on hand were enthusiastic about keeping Meares in his current job. Jerry Baker said Meares is a voice for stability and fairness. “His opponent has a judgeship, and it’s like the Republicans are trying to take the Circuit Court position because they don’t want a Democrat to hold it,” Baker said in reference to Meares’ opponent, Blount County Sessions Court Judge David Duggan.
Brandon Cook said Meares’ campaign is doing well, and people from different walks of life are showing interest in keeping him in office. “They’re supporting Judge Meares based upon his qualifications and because they see him as a fair and honest man not beholden to anyone. He’s going to be the fair and honest judge in the courthouse,” Cook said.
Maryville attorney Steve Merritt said it would be good to have a Democratic office holder in the courthouse. “There’s seven judgeships, and it would be nice to have a Democrat in one. We ought to have two or three,” he said.
Blount County Democratic Party Chair Dave Finch said it is important for Meares to get elected. “As we all know, Republicans dominate the system, and it really doesn’t work to the benefit of everybody. I think it’s important we have people of different perspectives,” Finch said. “Forty percent of people are Democrats, and I think it’s important we have people that represent them in the judicial system.”
Dave Finch’s wife, Penny Finch, described herself as a Republican but said she supported Meares. “I met Mike and fell in love with him. I believe in him. I hear he’s doing a great job that we would like him to continue,” she said.
Judge Meares said he enjoyed seeing everyone at the fund-raiser. “It’s always a pleasure to see a broad range of supporters, friends, former clients and people I’ve never met but who are interested in seeing the county develop and progress and who see me as part of the county growing into the 21st century,” he said.
Meares said it was humbling to see the crowd Sunday afternoon. “I’m working hard to do a good job as judge, and I want to be part of making Blount County a better place to live,” he said. “There’s a public responsibility in doing this job and being a part of these people who have a vision of a better future for this county.”
Doug Gamble said it is important that not all branches of local government be under the control of the same political party. “He’s qualified to do this work, but, for me, it’s not so much about his opponent as it is about change in government.”
Joe Gallagher and his wife Carol organized the fund-raiser. “To run a good campaign costs money,” said Joe Gallagher. “It’s a fact of life. I wanted to do something to help Mike’s campaign so Carol and I opened up our home.”
Meares said his job now, as judge, is to ensure the lawyers are doing their jobs for their clients. “I’ve done things differently. I think my idea for setting two trial dates works,” he said, as an example.
Previously, a trial date would be set six months in advance but inevitably something would happen and the trial would be rescheduled another six months. At the beginning of a case Meares sets two dates 45 days apart. “If something happens on the first date, it doesn’t take a year to resolve,” Meares said.