Glenn Hess’s service to his country and community began in 1966 when he joined the army.
Finally trained as a helicopter pilot, he served in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 as part of the 1st Cavalry Division. Hess was wounded in battle and received the Purple Heart. He also received three outstanding flying crosses, a bronze star, an Army Commendation Medal, and 32 air medals.
“As a helicopter pilot, one of the things I loved to do was support the infantry. To make her life as bearable as possible, ”recalls Hess. “But the boys who were down, the grunts they saw … just a miserable existence. And the boys from Khe Sanh got hammered. “
Hess later served in the Alabama National Guard and was interested in the law. He graduated from the Bar in 1979 and was a judge on the 14th Judicial Circuit from 1998 to 2003.
“The criminal justice system has changed enormously. The types of crimes we see today have changed enormously, ”said Hess. “The violence in crime is only astronomical compared to 1979. So there has been a very big change.”
Hess said the violence he sees in society reflects an increase in violence in movies and video games.
“You can’t bring the stuff to a young person’s mind without it having an effect,” said Hess. “And so we poisoned a whole generation with this violence.”
Hess believed that he could benefit his community as a judge.
“I had the opportunity to learn about people’s lives. I had the opportunity to touch people who I normally wouldn’t have seen in my practice, ”said Hess. “People I would not have met otherwise, and I learned a lot about the human condition in society today.”
While he sat on the bench, he had a guiding philosophy.
“It’s very simple: do the right thing. Be fair, ”said Hess. “I listened to what they had to say to me and I would talk to them as I would talk to my own sons.”
But as a judge, Hess was discouraged by what he saw of the prosecution. He said he believed the office needed new leadership and direction. He ran for the constitutional office in 2008 and won.
He introduced changes big and small, some of them from his time in the army. This included ongoing training for prosecutors, a dress code and a new guiding principle.
“And number one on the agenda, do the right thing,” said Hess. “It is not always easy to know what is right. But as I’ve told my lawyers, if you’re trying to find the right thing, you’re doing the right thing. And I think we were very successful with it. “
The task was to have Hess and his prosecutors determine whether the prison was the right place for each defendant.
“I can’t really say that sending someone to jail per se is very satisfying,” said Hess. “It is satisfying to protect the community from such individuals.”
Hess said trying to find out what was right boiled down to the difference between the dangerous and the mute. People who made mistakes but presented no threat were better served with parole or other intervention.
“You want to protect the community from the people who are really dangerous and you are trying to provide help and direction to those who need it,” he said.
In retirement, Hess looks forward to visiting all of America’s national parks. He added that he is grateful for the community that supports him through his numerous campaigns. Hess’s last day of work was Wednesday.
Larry Basford, Hess’ deputy, was elected prosecutor earlier this year. He will head the office for the next few days and be officially sworn in on January 5th.