Circuit Judge Mark Mahon, a seven-year veteran of the bench, was elected chief judge by his fellow judges in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties.
Mahon, 57, will become chief judge in January following the retirement of Donald Moran, who has been chief judge since March 1993.
In a secret ballot the 54 judges in the 4th Judicial Circuit picked Mahon over fellow Circuit Judge Lance Day. Circuit Judge Mallory Cooper also was a candidate but was eliminated a few weeks ago following the first ballot where no one got the majority of votes.
Mahon and Day competed in a runoff election. The results were announced Thursday morning.
Under Florida law the chief judge administers the circuit and county courts and is responsible for the court budget, judicial assignments and courthouse rules.
Mahon will technically be interim chief judge until the end of July 2015, filling out the rest of Moran’s term, but he is expected to be elected to a full two-year term that will run until the middle of 2017.
Mahon said he is “honored and humbled” by his selection.
Moran said he thought Mahon, Day and Cooper were all excellent candidates to succeed him.
Before being appointed to the bench by former Gov. Charlie Crist, Mahon had been a member of the Florida House of Representatives for seven years. He also was chairman of the Jacksonville Transportation Authority and a former assistant state attorney.
Mark’s father, W. Lacy Mahon, was an iconic lawyer and confidant of former Jacksonville mayors Lou Ritter, Hans Tanzler, Ed Austin and John Delaney.
Delaney, who counts the new chief judge among his closest friends, said he is a brilliant person with a worldly, big-picture judgment that will serve him well in his new role.
He also “has a wicked sense of humor,” Delaney said. “The hardest I’ve ever laughed was with him.”
Former Jacksonville General Counsel Rick Mullaney has known Mahon since both worked under Austin at the State Attorney’s Office in the 1980s.
“He’s level-headed and a great listener,” Mullaney said. “He’s also good at building consensus.”
That will serve him well dealing with 50 other judges and the Legislature, Mullaney said.
The fact that Mahon served in the Legislature will also likely be a benefit when he has to go to Tallahassee for more funding or support, he said.
Public Defender Matt Shirk said Moran has already relied on Mahon to represent the circuit in Tallahassee, and that will likely continue.
“I think he has the right temperament to lead the judiciary,” Shirk said. “And he’s someone who’s very well-respected.”
The office of State Attorney Angela Corey emailed a statement to the Times-Union saying, “We look forward to working with Judge Mahon. He was a wonderful prosecutor and criminal defense attorney, and he will do an excellent job as chief judge.”
Attorney Hank Coxe, a former president of The Florida Bar, said Mahon is widely respected in Jacksonville, and lawyers are looking forward to how he does as chief judge after Moran has been in the position for a generation.
Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470