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Contributed photo / Tenth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Larry H. Puckett will retire July 1, leaving the post open for Gov. Bill Lee to fill by appointment. Puckett has served since December 1997.

The retirement of 10th Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Larry H. Puckett has drawn two applicants for replacing him, one short of the number required under state law, so that means Gov. Bill Lee could throw a third name into the hat.

Puckett, 69, has served in the post since his appointment Dec. 22, 1997, and his retirement will end almost a quarter-century on the bench in the 10th Judicial District's Bradley, McMinn, Monroe and Polk counties. His retirement is effective July 1, about a year before his term expires in 2022.

The commission began accepting applications March 25, and the deadline for submitting them was April 8. Athens, Tennessee-lawyer David Mitchell Bryant and Cleveland, Tennessee-lawyer Michael Everett Jenne applied for the post through the Trial Court Vacancy Commission, but Tennessee law requires three applicants, officials said.

So now, under the law, the governor can fill the vacancy with any person who is qualified to serve as a circuit court judge in the district, according to the Tennessee Administrative Office of the Courts.

There is no timeline mentioned on the appointment.

Puckett said Monday morning that he'll miss the work and those he worked with over the years.

"It's a rural district, and I've enjoyed the counties, and the old idea of the 'circuit' is still alive here because we go from one county to the next. I really do enjoy having four counties, four different sheriffs, four different clerks' offices and clerks and having the opportunity to serve the people in these four counties," Puckett said.

"And I have enjoyed working with my judicial colleagues," he said, naming a string of fellow 10th Judicial District judges and chancellors he's known over the last 24 years. "I've really enjoyed being a part of the judiciary and the friendships and collegiality we've enjoyed, because as a judge you can't talk to just everybody, you have to be very careful about who you talk to about the things that you do in your work."

Puckett said he's going to do nothing but enjoy his grandchildren and travel with his wife for at least a couple of months, but he might turn back to the legal profession sometime in the future.

He retired before the end of his term, Puckett said, to allow the appointed replacement to gain experience on the bench before they decide whether to run for the seat in August 2022.

"This gives somebody a chance to be on the bench for a while and become acclimated," he said.

Contact Ben Benton at bbenton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton or at www.facebook.com/benbenton1.

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