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Knox County seeks short-term State’s Attorney

Jane Carlson

Knox County State’s Attorney Jeremy Karlin is stepping down before his term ends later this year.

Karlin – a Democrat and former Galesburg city council member – was elected to his first term as State’s Attorney in 2020. He’s leaving in September to return to private practice. He will be working for the James Kelly Law Firm, which provides general legal services to the city of Galesburg.

Karlin was also a finalist earlier this year for the general counsel position at Western Illinois University.

Republican Ashley Worby is running unopposed for the position. She’s poised to become the first woman to serve as Knox County State’s Attorney – and the first Republican in the position since the 1990s.

But she won't be able to serve as acting state's attorney when Karlin leaves.

Knox County Board Chair Jared Hawkinson said the county will have to appoint a Democrat to serve the rest of Karlin’s term. Per state statutes, a member of the same political party must be appointed to finish an elected official’s term.

“Once it becomes vacant, we’re supposed to appoint somebody within 60 days,” Hawkinson said. "That doesn’t mean that we can’t appoint someone sooner than the 60-day period if one becomes ready to be appointed.”

Hawkinson said he expects the county board will formally accept Karlin’s resignation at the July meeting.

But as of this point, the county board doesn’t know who they will appoint.

Hawkinson said after accepting Karlin’s resignation, the board will begin discussing who is eligible and who is interested in stepping in to fill the short-term position, until Worby is elected in November and sworn into office in December.

“The state’s attorney’s office is very important, as is any of the constitutional offices,” Hawkinson said. “But that one is extremely important to have somebody steering the ship.”

The State’s Attorney is the highest-paid county official. After a state-mandated cost of living increase last year, Karlin’s salary was $197,436.

Worby worked as an assistant state’s attorney under Karlin and former State’s Attorney John Pepmeyer before moving to the public defender’s office late last year.

Prior to that, she was in private practice in Galesburg.

Worby plans to move back to the State’s Attorney’s office before the election and work as an assistant prosecutor again.

In a campaign Facebook post, she said that will help her get to work sooner and fully prepare the office before she takes a brief absence in December to give birth to a child.

“I think it’s going to be a good transition,” Hawkinson said.

Hawkinson said it’s exciting that Knox County is about to have a woman serving as State’s Attorney for the first time.

“Ashley’s going to do a fantastic job in that office. We just have to wait until Dec. 1.,” Hawkinson said.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.