Photo by Jamie Plain
July 4, 1984. Claud Porter was working his first official week on call for the Daviess County Attorney’s Office. Back then, there were only three or four people who worked in the office and he was the new kid on the scene. It was a holiday, so no one was in the office. Except for Porter. That weekend alone he fielded around 150 calls as the lone worker. “I thought what in the world have I gotten myself into?” he said. From there, the next 40 years were a piece of cake compared to that weekend, he joked.
Beyond answering phone calls on a holiday, he spent most of his first 20 years with the office primarily focusing on child support and juvenile courts. Working in that division he said that he was introduced to several different issues that remain relevant in today’s judicial landscape, like mental health in drug related-cases — both juvenile and adult. He noticed that even in the 90s and early 2000s, mental health issues were interfering with how court appearances were running. By then it was 2002 and Porter knew he wanted to run for office. So, in the years leading up to the 2007 election, he did as much as he could to establish and fortify connections with the different organizations throughout the community. From River Valley Behavioral Health to Owensboro Health and every public service agency in between, he found organizations that were invested in the community’s health and wellness, especially as it pertained to court representation. “I was working with a number of different groups who were interested in trying to start programs for people who had alcohol problems,” he said. “We were also trying to create get-into-treatment programs, so we started looking for different kinds of treatment programs to do.”
So when 2007 came and he was officially declared County Attorney of Daviess County, his next thought, after gratitude, was, “What am I going to do?” The first term was spent making the connections work under his new purview. He began by asking the community what they wanted and what changes needed to be made. Just like roughly 10 years earlier, drugs in juvenile court were still an issue, but unlike 10 years earlier, the office no longer had adequate funding to address the crisis. Once the Kentucky Administrative Offices of Courts stopped funding the early program, Porter went to work to find another resource. With the help of the Fiscal Court, the Juvenile Drug Court returned back to function. Then the formation of mental health court followed shortly after.
“One of the things I dealt with both as an Assistant and County Attorney was I’d get calls all the time saying, ‘hey, this person is doing something. They’re acting out or behaving in a criminal manner, but they don’t really understand what they’re doing.’ So it was a question of how do we fix that?” To combat that, the Police Department formed a crisis intervention team with Porter at the helm of the project. The same followed with Domestic Violence, which was funded entirely by grants Porter had to apply for. All this occurred within a matter of years in Porter’s first term.
During this time, he said that it takes more than just him to help make an impact in the community. “Finding and hearing those people say, ‘what about this problem’ or ‘what about that,’ we could often find somebody who knew the answer or who had an avenue for us to fix it,” he said.
After forty years of making those connections and solving problems, he knew his work was finished, but he had one last mission: to expand the Family Court Judge bench from one to two. Through work with the AOC, Representative DJ Johnson and other peers, they were able to take some of the caseload of five judges and split it between two this year. “After that, I just told my staff, ‘Look, this is it,’” he recalled. “You have to give it up sometime.” And as he looks back from the hot summer day in the office at the housing authority to the days in Fiscal Court, he said he hopes the legacy that he’s left is ‘always being available.’ “I hope the legacy is that I was available and willing to do whatever we thought or somebody else thought needed to be done. Just whatever we could do and finding ways to make it all happen,” he said.