A humble county servant retires

Published 1:18 pm Thursday, June 6, 2024

BROOKHAVEN —  Attorney and Lincoln County prosecutor Brady Kellems notified the Lincoln County Board of Supervisors of his retirement Monday. Supervisors voted for Lincoln County Board Attorney Greg Malta to fill the role. 

Kellems is trying to retire in his private practice too. He started in 1981 and became county prosecutor in January 1992. When his daughter Cheli Durr and son-in-law Joseph Durr took different career paths and left the firm he started to cut back on his practice. 

He tried retiring at the end of last year but is still finishing up some cases for clients. As County Prosecutor, it was simply time to retire. 

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“It was time to let someone else take it over for a while,” Kellems said. “I’m trying to retire and still finding it difficult to totally retire though.” 

He had a jolly smile as he spoke. His snow white beard points to the years he has spent working in the court system. Kellems said he has seen a lot of changes. 

When he started the court system had a beat system. Judges were compensated for how many tickets they had moved through their courts. Today’s system for compensation of judges is not tied to anything like that. It is a better system, Kellems pointed out. 

As a whole, the judicial system is more efficient than ever before. Law enforcement is better trained. 

When he first started, Kellems worked as both the county prosecutor and youth court prosecutor. It split off “several years ago,” Kellems said. By several years, he means 20 years ago the roles were split due to the volume of cases. 

The county prosecutor mainly prosecutes misdemeanor cases from domestic violence or assault, traffic cases and DUIs. Kellems said the county prosecutor can participate in grand jury proceedings at the circuit court level. 

Cases or practicing law are not the things Kellems finds his pride or value in. One of his bigger cases is still ongoing in the court system. It is not the most important thing in life though. 

“The important thing for all of us is Jesus Christ and family,” Kellems said. “If you start out with those priorities the rest will all fall into place. Law is about helping people and being a servant to people. Christians should be a servant to anyone.” 

In private practice, he said he has helped widows get compensated so they can take care of their family. As a prosecutor, he has worked to make sure justice was served but helping the defendant when needed. 

“Sometimes people make a mistake and they need a different level of punishment. At some point it needs to go from a fine to something more serious but we have been able to give people the chance to do what is right,” Kellems said. “I’m thankful I can help people. I’ve been fortunate. I think the sheriff’s office and highway patrol do a good job which makes the prosecuting easier.” 

His life has been about serving people with the gifts he was given. Kellems became a Christian at the age of 12. Like an old truck, he might have lost the road and found the ditch a few times but he always managed to find the road. 

“I can’t tell you I’ve walked a straight line. Fortunately, I’ve stayed on the right path. We know the Lord gives us our path in life,” Kellems said. “Staying on the right path is something we work on throughout our lives.”


Humble beginnings

Kellems is originally from Kentucky where he was raised by his grandmother. He said his mother died when he was a baby. Gloria, his wife, moved with her family to his hometown in 1971. They met his sophomore year and she was there for a semester. 

He said they became friends and they would write letters to each other and stay in touch. They were wed in 1976. By 1981, they moved back to Brookhaven when Kellems graduated from law school at Northern Kentucky University. 

At the end of June, they will celebrate 48 years of marriage. 

“I’m thankful for the family we have. My wife and I, my daughter and son-in-law and their two children,” Kellems said. 

Kellems started college at Western Kentucky University. Law was not the career path he was born into. His community was a coal mining town and he worked in the coal mines from April to September nearly every year to pay for college. 

“That was not a career I wanted,” he said. 

He also had a teacher take his class to a trial at the local county courthouse. It opened a door for him and illustrates the impact a teacher can have. 

“We had a teacher and he took us to watch the trial. You only had to stay for an hour. I stayed and watched the completion of it,” Kellems said. “I thought it would be interesting. I got to work in the coal mines and work in the oilfield. Having those experiences, it is how I chose to do it. Roy Vincent was the teacher’s name. He was just doing it to broaden our experiences but it changed my career path. It is the little things in life that make a difference, it made a difference in my life.” 


Retirement plans

Kellems said retirement will open up time to spend with family and friends. He will be able to do some of his hobbies like working with wood, building furniture or flying his Beechcraft Bonanza A36. 

His wife Gloria has a long list of projects and furniture to build when he retires. He started woodworking as a teenager and has stuck with it since then. A shop class in high school exposed him to woodworking and he carried on in college. 

“I did a lot of work on my house when we built it. When I went to college, I carried on wood working,” Kellems said. “When I got out of law school, I was able to obtain a few tools and use them. It is therapeutic. I enjoy building things.” 

His advice for the next county prosecutor is simple. 

“Study the law and use common sense,” Kellems said. “Use toughness when needed but be just. Show a little bit of grace…a lot of grace.”