Local magistrate heads back to Preble County

PHOTO BY JILL GOSCHE Magistrate Erica Gordon is to become the magistrate for Preble County Common Pleas Court in February.

A local court official is headed home.

Erica Gordon, who has been the magistrate for Seneca County Common Pleas Court Judge Michael Kelbley’s court for the past decade, has accepted the same position in Preble County Common Pleas Court.

Gordon’a last day is Feb. 1, and she officially starts in Preble County Feb. 20.

“She’s going back home,” Kelbley said.

Prior to being appointed magistrate, Gordon had appeared before Kelbley while working for Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services. He was looking for a magistrate.

Kelbley recalled being impressed and described her as professional.

“(She) never gave me a resume,” he said.

Gordon graduated from Eaton High School in Preble County in 1997. She graduated with a degree in philosophy with a minor in political science from Hiram College in 2001. She graduated from Ohio Northern University’s law school in 2004 and had served as editor-in-chief of Law Review her last year there.

Gordon worked for LexisNexis from 2004 through 2006 and worked for Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services from January 2007 until January 2009, when Kelbley appointed her as his magistrate.

Judge Steve Bruns of Preble County Common Pleas Court sought out Gordon to be his magistrate last year.

Gordon said the question was totally unexpected and never occurred to her. She said she figured she would be in Seneca County until Kelbley retired in four years, and she would decide what to do after that.

She recalled Bruns telling her: “I’ve looked around.”

Gordon said she and her husband, Travis Swain, talked about it, and he said they both have a good job and like Tiffin.

“We talked about it for like a month. … We went back and forth,” she said.

Gordon and Swain both have family there, and Gordon said she wants her 15-month-old daughter, Frannie, to have a relationship with grandmothers, more than just holidays.

Gordon said the hardest part is she can’t imagine not working for Kelbley. She said working for him is the best job she has ever had, and even on a bad day, one knows it will be fine the next day.

Gordon said Kelbley always had been supportive of her.

“He trusts my judgment,” she said.

As a magistrate, Gordon has handled divorce and dissolution proceedings, and protection orders, whether they involved domestic violence or civil stalking. She also can handle bond and arraignment hearings.

Gordon conducts legal research for Kelbley and started restitution review hearings for his court.

Last year, Kelbley’s court collected more than $190,000 for crime victims. The court has collected more than $312,000 since 2015.

Gordon also has started the Seek Work court; those who are unemployed must comply with Seek Work through Seneca County Department of Job and Family Services.

Kelbley said he respected Gordon’s judgments, and she has a great knowledge of the law, is a people person and listens to people. It had been a pleasure working with her, he said.

“She has made the position hers,” he said.

Kelbley said he thought he and Gordon work well together.

“She has been a sounding board for me,” he said.

Kelbley selected Damon Alt, who has been the county’s treasurer for nine years, to replace Gordon.

Alt, a Seneca County native who lives outside of New Riegel, maintained his legal practice while serving as the county’s treasurer and previously was a prosecutor for the city of Tiffin, according to a release.

He is a certified public accountant and licensed attorney who opened his own law practice in Findlay after law school.