Kristi DeCluitt, a Waco assistant city attorney and former justice of the peace, will enter what could become a crowded Republican primary field in the race to succeed retiring 19th State District Judge Ralph Strother.

DeCluitt, 48, said she will make a formal announcement later, but she confirmed Monday that she is a candidate.

“I have the broadest qualifications and experience to be judge of the 19th District Court,” DeCluitt said. “I have the most experience on the bench, as well as considerable criminal and civil legal experience. The docket of the 19th is substantial and needs a judge who can hit the ground running from day one. I also believe that the citizens of McLennan County should have the choice of a devoted conservative and proven Republican candidate on the ballot.”

Strother, judge of 19th State District Court for 20 years, will retire at the end of his term in December 2020. The court is one of two in the county that primarily handles felony criminal cases.

DeCluitt has been an assistant city attorney in Waco since May 2016. Before that she served as McLennan County justice of the peace for Precinct 1, Place 1, from April 2006 to January 2015.

A native of Stratford, Texas, DeCluitt graduated from West Texas A&M University in 1994 with a double major in history and radio/TV/film.

She graduated from the University of Tulsa College of Law in 1997 and earned a master of laws in health law in 1999 from the University of Houston Law Center.

She also served as an assistant city attorney in College Station from 1999 to 2000 and was a McLennan County assistant district attorney from 2000 to 2006. She also is admitted to practice before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and in federal courts in the Western District of Texas.

DeCluitt serves on the boards of several Waco civic and nonprofit groups: Rotary Club of Waco, REACH Therapeutic Riding Center, Christian Youth Theater Waco and the Bosqueville Excellence in Education Foundation. She is a Junior League of Waco sustaining member.

She is past president of the Waco Genealogical Society, a past board member of the Waco Humane Society and a past board member of the Waco Civic Theatre.

DeCluitt and her husband, Chris, have two children, Eva, 13, and Blake, 8.

Last month, Thomas West, 54, a former McLennan County prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney, announced he will run to succeed Strother in the March 2020 Republican primary.

Defense attorney Susan Kelly, also a former McLennan County prosecutor, said she will make a run for the 19th State District Court bench, also in the Republican primary.

Staff writer at the Waco Tribune-Herald covering courts and criminal justice. Follow me on Twitter @TSpoonFeed.

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