Logan County Family Court Judge Dan W. Bratka has experienced some unforgettable moments during his nearly five decades of public service.
A former West Liberty mayor and also Logan County Sheriff’s Office deputy, the 1972 West Liberty-Salem High School graduate was a part of the founding personnel who formed the Logan County Family Court in 2005 following state legislative action creating the program.
He also was instrumental in helping to get the Tri-County Regional Jail up and running in Mechanicsburg as the facility’s executive director for six years.
Additionally, during Judge Bratka’s 35 1/2-year U.S. Air Force career, he served in the prestigious position on the U.S. Air Force Presidential Honor Guard at the time of the country’s bicentennial in 1976, and had the chance to meet various heads of state and royal dignitaries, including Queen Elizabeth.
Sunday, he retires from his position on the bench. While taking into account a lively and accomplished career, the judge is looking forward to a renewed focus on the simple and meaningful activities in his life.
Spending time with his wife of 41 years, Sara, their three sons and spouses, and five grandchildren is a high priority. In the upcoming weeks, he is also looking forward to the birth of his sixth grandchild.
“My granddaughter is due April 6, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that maybe she’ll come on my birthday, April 1; that would be a great birthday present,” the nearly 67-year-old said.
He also will be busy in his woodworking shop, continuing a hobby that began in his high school years under the tutelage of West Liberty-Salem industrial arts teacher R.L. Murphy, who remains a close friend today. Judge Bratka’s creative endeavors are spent crafting furniture and all types of wooden items, “whatever my wife requests, even a 14-foot cherry dining room table” he said, noting, “I’m just not fond of making chairs.”
His woodworking talents also garnered him the People’s Choice Award in the Logan County Art League’s Not So Bad Art by Good People Award in 2017 for his wooden block “O” entry paying homage to The Ohio State Buckeyes.
Judge Bratka said he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force prior to this high school graduation, and went on to serve four years active duty. His military duties took him to Lowry Air Force Base in Denver and also to Bolling Air Force Base in Washington, D.C.
During his appointment to the U.S. Air Force Presidential Honor Guard, he said it was a very interesting time, as the Watergate scandal was ongoing. Consequently, Richard Nixon was the president at the start of Judge Bratka’s time on the honor guard, and then Gerald Ford was sworn into office Aug. 9, 1974, following Nixon’s resignation.
Also during his the Presidential Honor Guard role, he participated in a number of funerals for military personnel at Arlington National Cemetery.
Following his time in Washington, D.C., the West Liberty-Salem High School graduate said he joined the U.S. Air Force Reserves, and ultimately retired from that role in the rank of lieutenant colonel in December 2007.
He attended Clark State University for a year and then attended Urbana University, where he received his bachelor’s degree in social science.
It was during his time at Clark State University that he met his wife during a corrections class bus ride to visit a prison, when she took a seat beside him on the bus.
“She contends that the bus was pretty full and there weren’t many seats left, but I said that it wasn’t too full and she just wanted to sit with me,” the judge said with a laugh.
Starting in 1978, Judge Bratka also served as a deputy sheriff with the LCSO, where he worked for five years. He then attended the Ohio Northern University College of Law, where he received his juris doctor degree in 1986 and was admitted into practice in the State of Ohio in 1987.
As a former deputy, he had met many attorneys in the area, and said he was able to utilize those connections to be appointed as an Assistant Logan County Prosecuting Attorney under Prosecutor Doug Chamberlain and also served as a Bellefontaine Municipal Court Prosecutor.
From 1987 to 1998, Judge Bratka was a partner and former associate in a private practice, the law firm of West, Chamberlain, Bennett, Bratka & Core in Bellefontaine.
He left the law field for six years to serve as the executive director of the Tri-County Regional Jail just as it was being built and established.
In 2005, he began his Logan County Family Court role as a magistrate for seven years, working under Judge Doug Chamberlain.
Once Judge Chamberlain retired, the former magistrate was appointed to fill the position in September 2012. Judge Bratka said he has been elected two terms since then.
One of the most rewarding parts of his job in Logan County Family Court has been working with youths and getting to make a difference in their lives.
“I’ll really miss working with this kids; it means a lot when we’re able to help them and their families,” he said Thursday. “You don’t win every case, but when you do, it is really rewarding, knowing it will have a long-lasting impact on the kids.
“I have a wonderful staff here as well that I’ve been able to work with, and I appreciate everything they do. I’ll miss all of my staff here.”
Also a member of Calvary Baptist Church, Judge Bratka said his wife serves as the treasurer for the church, and looking to retire as well in the next several years.
The retiring judge is also a member of the Logan County Bar Association and also holds life memberships of the American Legion, the Air Force Association and the Reserve Officer’s Association. Judge Bratka served for a number of years as an Ohio High School Athletic Association football official and track and field official.
Following his official retirement Sunday, the Logan County Republican Central Committee will be interviewing candidates to fill Judge Bratka’s unexpired term that concludes Dec. 31, 2022. The committee will make a recommendation to Governor Mike DeWine, who will appoint a successor.