Cape and Islands state representative Eric Turkington plans to file nomination papers this week for election as the register of Barnstable county family and probate court.
Mr. Turkington said he will not seek reelection on Nov. 4 to the state house seat he has held for nearly 20 years. He will serve the remainder of his legislative term, which expires in early January 2009.
“This is one of the hardest choices I’ve had to make,” said the 60-year-old legislator. “My district includes the greatest people you could hope to represent, and state house service represents a good piece of my life.
“But after 20 years, I’ve learned there is life after the legislature,” he said, noting that a three-hour round trip commute to the state house would be replaced, he hoped, by a half-hour drive to the court house on Main street in Barnstable.
The Falmouth Democrat is an attorney and has maintained a real estate and probate practice. If successful in his bid for a six-year term as Barnstable’s register of probate, Mr. Turkington would succeed Frederic P. Claussen, a Republican who has held the post since 1969. Mr. Turkington said he expects two other Republican candidates for the register’s job but that he has the support of Democratic colleagues in the legislature.
Mr. Claussen said this week he was not endorsing any candidate at this point. “But I believe the post requires an attorney and I’ve encouraged Eric to seek the post,” said the state’s longest continuously serving Republican officeholder, adding, “Party affiliation is less important than legal qualification for the register, I believe.”
Mr. Turkington said he has visited seven probate courts in anticipation of his candidacy. He has several ideas, including upgrading of computer systems and services, and a plan, taken from the Suffolk County probate court model, to develop a cadre of system-savvy people who can help petitioners through the probate process.
“I’d also like to see better amenities for petitioners,” he said. “Most people are not happy to be there. They deserve some amenities rather than standing in hall. It’s not a good environment for people who are already stressed out,” he said.
Meanwhile he will continue legislative work on affordable housing initiatives for Nantucket and the Vineyard and on combatting a plan by Gov. Deval Patrick to fold the Steamship Authority into a single state transportation entity. ”We need to address that,” Mr. Turkington said. “He really doesn’t want to do this. As we’ve noticed from time to time, (the Steamship Authority) can require a lot of attention. It is not funded by the state, is supported by users, and is unlike other transportation authority.”
As chairman of the joint committee on tourism, arts and cultural development, Mr. Turkington also is planning to bring the committee and interested state tourism officials to both Islands this year to promote tourism.