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Published: Wednesday, 4/13/2005

Oregon: Petroff to bow out with many achievements

BY ERIKA RAY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Donald Z. Petroff made significant changes as judge and as Oregon mayor. Donald Z. Petroff made significant changes as judge and as Oregon mayor.
FRASER / BLADE Enlarge

When he's behind the bench in a courtroom, Judge Donald Z. Petroff is stern and all business.

But then he steps down to unbutton his judge's robe after court is over, and his face softens into a smile as he waves the robe around like a cape, demonstrating the "Batman impression" he does for children.

Mr. Petroff, 66, of 1521 South Stadium Rd., has been the Oregon Municipal Court judge since 1981, but he decided that presiding over cases for 24 years was long enough. He plans to retire on Dec. 31.

But he'll leave the bench knowing that he's helped update the Oregon courts with significant changes. Not only did he help promote building a bigger courtroom, which was done in 1987, but he added a movable witness stand, computerized the Oregon operation, and began reading rights in the courtroom via video.

"He is so talented and he is involved in so many things," Oregon Clerk of Courts Stacey DeShetler said. "He has implemented so many new programs and innovative techniques in the court system."

Mr. Petroff said the best part of his job is working with his staff to develop programs to help people.

"I know that what I do has a positive impact on the community," he said.

He's helped implement the community service and alcohol and drug treatment programs. Oregon was also the first suburban court to establish its own probation and presentence department.

"In my opinion, he's done more for the community than any other person that I know of," Ms. DeShetler said.

Mr. Petroff was born in 1938 and raised in East Toledo.

East Toledo. He graduated from Waite High School in 1956 and served for three years in the Army - two of which he was stationed in Germany - before graduating from the University of Toledo's Law School in 1967.

Before he was finished with college, he married his wife, Sarianne, in 1963, and the couple had two children and now have three grandchildren.

In 1969, Mr. Petroff moved to Oregon and began practicing law at Huffman & Petroff, a firm he helped form.

Two years later, in 1971, Mr. Petroff ran for mayor of Oregon and won with what he said was a unique campaign utilizing buttons, pictures on signs, and a parade through town. During his two-year term, Mr. Petroff said he oversaw sewer projects, an expanding water plant, and said he revamped the zoning code.

After his stint as mayor, which he said was too time-consuming for him, he continued to practice law until 1981, which is when he won his seat behind the bench in Oregon. He later was re-elected three times, and won the Ohio Supreme Court's Award of Superior Judicial Service.

When he's not at work, Mr. Petroff said he enjoys hunting and trapshooting, and is the chairman of the Mercy Health Partners Board of Trustees, where he has been a member for 18 years.

As for retirement, he said he has an unlimited number of options with what he can do.

"The question is, how am I going to limit it?" he said. "Time and money, I guess. I'm redefining my life, so I'm not sure what I'm going to do. That's to discover."

So far, officials from the Lucas County Board of Elections said five people have taken out petitions to run for Oregon Municipal Court judge - including Mr. Petroff, who said he took them out of habit prior to making his decision to retire - but no one has turned them in yet.

The other four attorneys who have taken out petitions are Louis Kovacs; Jeffrey Keller, who is an Oregon councilman; and Cherrefe Kadri and Gary Breier, who are acting judges in the Oregon Municipal Court.

The petitions are due May 2 by 4 p.m.



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