State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs.

State Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs.

So it turns out that in June the State Bar of Georgia presented state Rep. Wendell Willard, R-Sandy Springs, with its Distinguished Service Award.

Willard serves as attorney for the city of Sandy Springs, but apparently didn’t mention the award to the city – or anyone else.

When the city sent over a press release on Aug. 16, a reporter asked if Reporter Newspapers had somehow missed the announcement.

No, city spokeswoman Sharon Kraun said.

“Wendell, being his humble self, didn’t tell us about the award,” Kraun said. “We just found out ourselves.”

Willard serves as Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee and recently oversaw an overhaul of the state’s juvenile justice code.

“Chairman Willard is one of the most influential leaders in the Georgia General Assembly,” State Bar of Georgia President Robin Frazer Clark said in a press release. “He has earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the political aisle for the legal expertise, intelligence and passion he brings to his leadership position for the benefit of the people of Georgia.”

Here is the full announcement:

Hilton Head Island, S.C. – State Rep. Wendell K. Willard (R-Sandy Springs), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, was honored with the Distinguished Service Award, presented by the State Bar of Georgia during its Annual Meeting on June 22.

Willard received special praise for his 45 years of law practice and leadership in the public service arena, having served previously as county attorney for DeKalb County, as city attorney for Sandy Springs and, for the past 13 years as a member of the Georgia House of Representatives.

“Chairman Willard is one of the most influential leaders in the Georgia General Assembly,” State Bar of Georgia President Robin Frazer Clark said in making the presentation. “He has earned the respect of his colleagues on both sides of the political aisle for the legal expertise, intelligence and passion he brings to his leadership position for the benefit of the people of Georgia.”

During the 2013 legislative session, Willard was the primary sponsor of legislation to reform Georgia’s juvenile code toward the goal of reducing the criminal recidivism rate among juveniles and enhancing the cost effectiveness of the juvenile justice system, which was approved by the House and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Nathan Deal.

He was also recognized for his successful sponsorship on behalf of legislation enacted in 2011 to modernize in a comprehensive manner the Code of Evidence used in Georgia’s courts for the first time since 1863, among many other legislative issues on which he has worked alongside and provided counsel to members of the State Bar leaders and advocacy teams.

A lifelong Georgian, Willard is a graduate of Georgia State University and Atlanta Law School. He served in the U.S. Marine Reserve and as a banking trust officer before beginning his legal career in 1968.

The Distinguished Service Award is the highest accolade bestowed on an individual member of the State Bar of Georgia. The honor recognizes “conspicuous service to the cause of jurisprudence and to the advancement of the legal profession in the state of Georgia.”

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The State Bar of Georgia, with offices in Atlanta, Savannah and Tifton, was established in 1964 by Georgia’s Supreme Court as the successor to the voluntary Georgia Bar Association, founded in 1884. All lawyers licensed to practice in Georgia belong to the State Bar. Its more than 45,000 members work together to strengthen the constitutional promise of justice for all, promote principles of duty and public service among Georgia’s lawyers, and administer a strict code of legal ethics.

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