O’Neal seeks probate judge office

Published 6:10 pm Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Michael Edward O’Neal has announced his intent to seek the office of Marengo County Probate Judge. He will run as a Democrat.

O’Neal, a Real Estate Title Examiner and 1984 graduate of the University of Alabama, said his more than 20 years work experience in the record rooms around the state have helped him accumulate a wealth of experience in the field of probate.

“Being a title examiner, I check public records in the probate rooms. I’ve done that 21 years,” he said. “That’s a big part of what the probate judge does.”

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O’Neal added that he’s developed commercial and residential property, been part of several land condemnations and adopted two children – all functions that run through the county’s probate office.

“I’ve worked with the probate offices in 20 Alabama counties and five in Mississippi,” said O’Neal, who has never sought political office before.

The county’s record room, O’Neal said, was one of the strengths of the probate office.

“We have one of the best, if not the best record rooms in the state,” he said. “The office is run as good or better than any in the state.”

However, O’Neal said he was wary of technological advances that, on paper would be designed to make record searches easier. If elected, he said he would like to address privacy issues that could come from putting records on the Internet. Also putting records online could cause a potential dip in revenue as this work could potentially be done remotely.

“Right now, people from Birmingham, Tuscaloosa and all around come down here to do abstract work,” he said. “They buy gas, probably lunch. That all goes away if you can get what you want from behind a computer.”

Having made a career from pouring through probate records, O’Neal said he saw the opportunity to serve as probate judge as a way to give back to his home, and – if elected – would give back more than just his time.

“I’ve lived in Marengo County my whole life, expect for when I was in college,” he said, “and I’ve sought this office to give back. If I’m lucky enough to be selected, I would give back 10 percent of the paycheck…probably split it between scholarships for county students and charities. I’ve worked hard to learn what I know and I know this stuff very well and I’m willing to do whatever it takes to move this county forward.”

Michael is married to Jane Stanford O’Neal. The couple has three children, Clair, Matt and Palmer and five grandchildren.

– from staff reports