SYCAMORE – Joe Pedersen said Wednesday that his life was guided by service to others.
After taking the oath of office and being installed as the newest judge of the 23rd Judicial Circuit, the Malta resident pointed to his father, Ralph, in the front row of the third floor courtroom of the DeKalb County Courthouse.
"Growing up I watched him get up every morning, go to work as an ironworker, and do really hard work, every single day, come home exhausted, get up the next day and do it again to support our family," he said.
He remembered his late mother, Lucille, who volunteered thousands of hours at his school and the family's church.
"Those examples of hard work, dedication and service helped shape a belief in me that my worth as a person should be measured by the amount of service I provide to others," Pedersen said. "That's what led to my career as a lawyer and, ultimately, to this role of county judge."
Judge Ronald Matekaitis said Wednesday that installation as a judge was a crowning achievement for Pedersen and his legal career.
"It is a day unlike any other day, except perhaps your wedding day," Matekaitis said, noting the similar pledges to being faithful.
Pedersen was previously a prosecutor with U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Northern District of Illinois in Rockford. Before that he worked as a prosecutor in the DeKalb County State's Attorney's Office and the Ogle County State's Attorney's Office.
Matekaitis was DeKalb County State's Attorney during part of Pedersen's tenure with the office.
While in Rockford, Pedersen prosecuted Rita Crundwell, the controller and treasurer from the city of Dixon who pleaded guilty to embezzling more than $50 million from the city over more than 20 years. It was the largest municipal embezzlement in U.S. history.
Pedersen said a lot of young lawyers look up to judges and, as his career progressed, he started to see that he might one day sit on the bench. He said there were many judges who have influenced him and that he aspires to emulate.
He will be presiding over mostly family law cases, he said, as assigned by the chief and presiding judges of the circuit.
Pedersen received his undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University in 1991 and his law degree from University of Iowa in Iowa City in 1995. His courtroom will be courtroom 200.