By ADAM ARMOUR
Itawamba County has a new prosecuting attorney.
Ray O’Neal of Fulton was sworn in as the county’s interim prosecuting attorney during Monday’s meeting of the Itawamba County Board of Supervisors. He replaces attorney David Sabine, who is officially resigning from the position on March 15.
O’Neal has been practicing law for more than 20 years, of which 15 have been in Fulton. He currently serves as the Fulton Board of Aldermen’s attorney as well as the prosecuting attorney for the town of Mantachie.
He expressed excitement at being selected as the county’s attorney.
“I’m very pleased and grateful to the board of supervisors for giving me this opportunity, and I look forward to working with the justice and youth courts and law enforcement of Itawamba County,” O’Neal said.
During their meeting, supervisors accepted Sabine’s letter of resignation. Sabine has served as the county’s attorney since 1999, when he was appointed to fulfill the unexpired term of outgoing county attorney Billy Funderburk. He was elected for three consecutive terms following his appointment.
“Some of the best experiences I have gained, both personally and professionally, have been alongside law enforcement, the Justice Court judges and their staffs, the Youth Court judges and clerk, the circuit clerk and staff, the district attorney and staff and most importantly, the people of Itawamba County,” Sabine wrote in his letter. “I will never forget the many positive lessons I have learned and invaluable experience gained as county attorney.”
Although O’Neal has been appointed to serve as interim attorney for the time being, Itawamba County Board of Supervisors attorney Bo Russell said O’Neal will likely take over the position until the end of the term in January 2012.
The position is an elected one, meaning that if another person qualifies, a special election will have to be held in November. Russell said he believed this scenario to be unlikely.
“If only one person qualifies, you don’t have to hold a special election,” Russell said. “But, you still have to go through the process … In my opinion, Ray [O'Neal] is the most qualified person for the position.”
Russell said that in order to qualify, a person has to both live in Itawamba County and be a certified prosecuting attorney.
“Personally, I’d be very surprised if somebody ran against Ray [O'Neal],” Russell added.
Adam Armour can be reached at 862-3141, by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting his blog at itawamba360.com.