‘On the shoulders of giants:’ Shaun Styers takes reigns as chief juvenile probation officer

Published 4:16 pm Monday, August 7, 2023

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By DONALD MOTTERN | Staff Writer

COLUMBIANA – Shaun Styers was named by Judge Erin Bell Welborn to fill the role of Shelby County chief juvenile probation officer in an appointment that became effective on June 1.

Styers’ appointment, as chief JPO and director of juvenile court services, follows the retirement of longtime-public-servant Leann Rigney, who held the office since 2016.

A 2013 graduate of the University of Alabama School of Law, Styers is a face familiar to many in the community with more than seven years of experienced service in the Shelby County District Attorney’s Office.

“Shaun and I actually kind of grew up together in juvenile court, we were both young attorneys together,” Judge Erin Welborn said. “I was on the defense side and he was on the prosecution side, but we spent so much time together and our ideals and our passion for kids and for the youth in our county just really align. So, when the opportunity presented itself, I knew that he was the perfect pick.”

Before his appointment, Styers served as a juvenile court prosecutor and was the first assistant district attorney specifically hired to work within the juvenile court. Now, as chief juvenile probation officer, Styers oversees the day-to-day operations of the juvenile probation office and works to maintain cooperation with community partners and the community as a whole.

“Honestly, its continuing to build the bridges of the programs that were laid out before me and attempting and trying to grow those relationships,” Styers said. “As we connect with the schools, we connect with law enforcement, we connect with the court, we connect counselors (and) we connect with DYS (Alabama Department of Youth Services). So, we’re kind of the hub for a lot of services that are coming in to help out these at-risk kids.”

Styers’ appointment is the latest addition in the construction of a fortified effort by Welborn to strengthen Shelby County’s ability to protect and serve its youth. It features both the expansion of pre-existing programs/partnerships and the establishment of new ones that seek unique solutions to garner better outcomes.

“The most precious resource we have in Shelby County is our children,” Welborn said. “We have to really pour in and invest in the future by investing in this court and investing in the members of this court with who are (with) the children.”

One program in particular, that Styers seeks to expand in scope and occurrence, is the county’s sexting diversion program begun by retired chief JPO Rigney. The program, focusing on sixth through eighth graders, directs children and their parents on the dangers, as well as the potential legal consequences, of inappropriate cellphone use.

“(We’re) trying to curb that behavior essentially before it starts,” Styers said. “That’s one of the things that I am really proud that we are stepping on the shoulders of giants with, with Leann.”

Styers also leads the probation office in its research of new grants, grant opportunities and the maintenance of grant funding. All of which goes toward the effort of best equipping Shelby County in its mission to protect the youth.

The Juvenile Court of Shelby County works to strengthen the family unit and protect the community through quality programs, while also holding children accountable for their actions and organizing probation services where needed.

In that vein, Styers, as chief JPO, also holds a position on the Children’s Policy Council of Shelby County, which received an award of excellence at the 2023 Alabama Children’s Policy Council Conference on Aug. 2.

Styers looks forward to continuing the service he has contributed as he settles into his new role. A role that seeks to ensure that every child in Shelby County has an unimpeded opportunity to grow and achieve their full potential.