FORT WALTON BEACH — Surrounded by family and friends, former Assistant State Attorney Angela Mason placed her hand on a pair of family Bibles Monday morning at the Okaloosa County Courthouse and achieved her lifelong dream of becoming a judge.
With her husband, David, holding the Bibles — one of which belonged to her great-great grandfather William Marler, who helped found the city of Destin, and the other that belonged to her great-grandparents — Mason repeated the swearing-in vows from Circuit Court Judge Michael Flowers.
“I will well and faithfully perform the duties of Okaloosa County Court Judge, of which I’m about to enter,” she said, taking a deep breath. “So help me God.”
Mason becomes the newest judge to join the ranks of the First Judicial Circuit of Florida, which includes Escambia, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties. She fills the seat vacated by T. Patterson Maney, who stepped down in May after 29 years at the bench.
Mason, a 41-year-old graduate of the University of Tennessee law school, beat out six other local attorneys to receive the County Judge appointment. Three of them had worked alongside her at the State Attorney’s Office.
Mason was an assistant state attorney for almost 16 years and worked in the Fourth Judicial Circuit before taking a job in the First Judicial Circuit. Mason’s role in the State Attorney’s Office evolved over the years to the point that she’d received the title of special prosecutor and was handling most high-profile felony cases. Two of those cases included the death penalty cases of Cory Hagwell, who is charged with the murder of 3-year-old Adelynn Merrell, and Jacob Langston, who is charged with killing three people in 2016.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Bill Bishop said Mason’s cases have all been reassigned.
“We will obviously miss her at the State Attorney’s Office,” Bishop said Monday at Mason’s swearing-in ceremony. “She’s been an integral part of the office for over 11 years, but we have individuals who have stepped up and will be able to take over the role she has had in the office.
“I’m very excited for Angela,” he continued. “I believe they’ve made an excellent choice and I hope to see her on the bench for many, many years to come.”
Mason said she is the first native Destin resident to become a judge in Okaloosa County.
“It’s been a lifelong dream of mine,” she said. “I’m honored to be the first native of Destin to make it to the bench. My heritage is very important to me, and I’m honored to represent my family and am grateful for the opportunity to continue serving the people.”
She added she was looking forward to taking over Veteran’s Court, which Maney is credited with creating in the First Judicial Circuit. Veteran’s Court helps divert veterans into treatment or other alternative programs that allow them to avoid jail time if they can stay on track.
Mason’s children, 12-year-old Noah, 8-year-old Maddox and 23-year-old Chloe, were in the audience as their mother was sworn in.
Noah said he was “excited” for his mom to become a judge, but there was one thing he wasn’t so sure about.
“I think it means we have to follow more rules,” he said.