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Nelson takes over at DA’s office
Billy Nelson sworn in
With his family alongside, Billy Nelson takes the oath of office as Atlantic Judicial Circuit district attorney from Nancy Aspinwall. Photo by Pat Donahue

There have been few to hold the office before him, and Billy Nelson is aware of the legacy of those who preceded him as Atlantic Judicial Circuit district attorney.

Nelson was sworn in December 27 to lead the prosecutors in the six-county area, which includes Liberty, Long, Bryan, Evans, McIntosh and Tattnall counties.

Nelson succeeds longtime DA Tom Durden, who retired after 25 years. Durden succeeded the late Dupont Cheney, who guided the circuit’s DA’s office for 22 years.

“It’s a great honor to be standing here today and to have this responsibility,” Nelson said. “I appreciate the faith in me everybody has to do this job. It is a big legacy to live up to. It is a great responsibility. It is something I look forward to. I look forward to the challenge of making this a better circuit to live in.”

Nelson, a graduate of Mercer University’s Walter F. George School of Law, started with the Atlantic Judicial Circuit as an assistant DA back in 2011. Before that, he had been staff attorney for the superior court judges in Brunswick. The judges there asked him if he had any interest in being an ADA.

“They talked about what a good experience it was to be in the courtroom,” he said.

He ran into Atlantic Circuit chief Judge Robert Russell one day in McIntosh County, and the judge told him of an opening with the DA’s office.

Though he had a brief stint in private practice, being on the DA’s side of the courtroom is where Nelson said he knew he wanted to be.

“I wanted to prosecute. I wanted to work for the public,” he said. “In 2013, when I came back to the DA’s office, I knew this is what I wanted to do.”

Nelson did not face opposition in his run for district attorney.

Nelson said he wanted a small swearing-in ceremony, with Superior Court Judges Paul Rose and Ronnie Rahn, Liberty County Sheriff Will Bowman and Long County Sheriff Craig Nobles in attendance, along with several members of the DA’s office.

“Working in the circuit for the last 11 years has helped me build relationships,” he said. “It has helped me earn the trust of the people and likewise earn the trust of law enforcement. It is a really good opportunity to move the circuit forward and move the DA’s office forward.”

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