Zach Saunders

Zachary L. Saunders has won the race for Athens County Probate/Juvenile Court Judge according to the unofficial preliminary results provided by the Athens County Board of Elections.

Saunders won with 12,561 votes, or 60.6%, his opponent Kenneth E. Ryan received 8,165 votes, or 39.4%.

“This was a team effort,” Saunders said. “I have to thank each and every person that supported my campaign and helped get out the vote. We ran a good campaign throughout a pandemic.”

Due to the pandemic, large scale celebrations are by and large not being held. In lieu of this, Saunders is celebrating at home with those closet to him, including his wife and children, parents, in-laws, two of his “best friends” and his boss, Athens County Prosecutor Keller Blackburn.

Saunders will bring his experience working under Blackburn as the Athens County Assistant Prosecutor with him to the judgeship. He also hopes to bring with him important aspects of his campaign.

“As I ran my campaign with hard-work and determination, I’m going to bring that to the bench. I’m going to bring 110%,” Saunders told the Messenger.

The seat is currently is filled by Ryan, who was appointed to the position by Gov. Mike DeWine following the death of longtime Judge Robert Stewart. Ryan was recommended to the appointment by the Athens County Republican Party.

Saunders applauded his opponent, who he counts as a personal friend.

“Ken and I have been friends, although were on opposite sides of this. It’s good to know that we remained friends throughout this campaign. It was a clean campaign for both of us,” Saunders said.

According to Ryan, he is confident in his opponent’s abilities.

“I wish to congratulate Jude-Elect Saunders. He ran an excellent campaign. I have no doubt he will serve Athens County with distinction,” Ryan said. “I’d also like to extend my utmost thanks to the court staff for their support during the time that I’ve had the pleasure of being the probate and juvenile judge. Likewise, to my office staff and the voters. I simply can’t thank them enough.”

When asked if there was anything that he would like to say to the voters of Athens County, Saunders summed up his gratitude.

“In short? Thank you. I’m lucky and I’m excited, but more importantly I am thankful to the voters of Athens County,” Saunders said. “I’m excited, I’m thrilled. I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work.”

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