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Jerry Hill

Distinguished Alumni May 1983

Jerry Hill, State Attorney for the Tenth Judicial Circuit, retired in 2017 after holding the position for 32 years. He has the distinction of being Polk State’s first Distinguished Alumnus, receiving the award in 1983.

Jerry Hill graduated from Winter Haven High School in 1965 and then enrolled at Polk State (known then as Polk Junior College). During this time, Jerry was a member of the Student Government Association, serving terms as both vice president and president. Recalls Hill, “Going to Polk helped me to figure out the direction I was headed with my education, and in turn, my future life’s work. I was able to approach my professors, who knew me by name, and we could discuss the issues of the day and any concerns that I had with my classes. I felt very fortunate to be able to experience that kind of closeness, because I did not have that same experience in my upper-level programs of study.”

Hill received a Polk State Associate of Arts degree in 1968, a bachelor’s degree from Florida State University in 1969, and a Juris Doctorate degree from Stetson University in 1972.

Hill started his law career as a full-time Assistant Public Defender. After working in private practice for several years, he was elected in 1981 as the Public Defender for the Tenth Judicial Circuit, serving Polk, Hardee, and Highlands counties. As a public defender, Hill oversaw the state-paid attorneys defending cases where the client could not afford legal representation.

After one term in this position, Hill made a successful run for State Attorney, taking the oath of office in 1984. As State Attorney, Hill prosecuted cases; it is rare for a public defender to switch to prosecuting cases. He was re-elected unopposed in the subsequent seven elections.

When asked about the legacy he created in the State Attorney’s Office, Hill noted that he was proud of the growth of the department, as well as the specialized units that were created during his tenure. “When I first became State Attorney, we had around 100 total personnel. Today there are over 220.” Additionally, when Hill first came into office, all of the attorneys were assigned cases as they came up. During his tenure, the office created specialized units, such as Homicide and Economic Crimes. This arrangement allows attorneys to try cases and build knowledge in one particular area of legal infractions.

Hill is also proud to have served as mentor to many attorneys over the years. The State Attorney’s Office offers internships each year, and former intern and Assistant State Attorney Brian Haas successfully ran for office in 2016 after Hill announced that he would not seek re-election. In addition, roughly half of the forty judges that cover the Tenth Judicial Circuit once worked in the State Attorney’s Office under Hill’s leadership.