HUNTINGTON – Greg Howard recently was sworn in as a new Cabell Circuit judge, fill the seat vacated by Jane Hustead, who retired Dec. 31.

Howard earned his bachelor's degree in 1995 from Marshall University and in 1998 received a law degree from the West Virginia University College of Law. After serving as clerk for four different judges, Howard moved on to accept a position as an assistant Cabell County prosecutor.

After leaving the prosecutor's office, he later became a partner at the law firm of Bailey & Howard, handling civil and criminal matters. Howard served as a member of the West Virginia House of Delegates from 2002 to 2006 and later became chief counsel to West Virginia Secretary of State Betty Ireland

Howard told The West Virginia Record that becoming a judge has been a longtime goal.

“It’s been kind of a lifelong dream of mine to do something like this, “he said.  “I’ve been practicing law for almost 20 years, so it’s a good point in my career to take this step and I’m really just looking forward to it.”

Howard campaigned on a platform of drug court reform and the idea of establishing a juvenile drug court for underage offenders. He says he will hit the ground running.

“One of the things that I’m focused on trying to get accomplished in the first 30 days is starting a juvenile drug court,” Howard explained. “And I think to get that juvenile drug court back in place, it’s been gone now for a few years, and to get that back in place I think will be very beneficial and a good step in the right direction in addressing the juvenile drug crisis.”

And after getting the juvenile court up and running, Howard said he wants to address the adult opiate crisis devastating West Virginia. Cabell County has been especially hit hard by the heroin epidemic that has spread across the United States. Last August saw 27 overdoses in a four-hour span in Cabell County, TriStateUpdate.com reported. According to the Center for Disease Control, West Virginia has the nation’s highest rate of lethal overdoses per person.

Howard told The West Virginia Record that he has had a front row seat as a witness to the state’s opiate problem.

“It’s a very serious problem,” he said.  “It’s an area that I have a lot of experience in unfortunately. I’ve been working with from the prosecutor side (and) I’ve dealt with that. And then from the defendant side, I’ve had a lot of clients who have opiate addictions.”

Howard says that his wealth of experience has prepared him for the job and describes himself as efficient, honest, fair, and even-tempered, qualities he says he will bring with him to the bench.

“I’m committed to doing the absolute best I can for our county. And this is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time and content to do the best job possible that I can in this position. I’m just excited that the voters have given me an opportunity to even take this step.”

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