TAVARES – The only attorney to practice private placement adoptions will become the next Lake County judge in a race that had been close from the beginning.

Brian Welke received 69,119 votes to 65,825 for attorney Cary Rada.

Asked how he was feeling Tuesday night, Welke responded with one word: relieved.

“It is great to win,” he said. “I wish Cary the best and I can tell you this, from the get go our campaigns and the way we handled them parallel each other and the results reflect that.”

Lake County Judge Donna Miller is retiring in December.

Welke, 51, said he is looking forward to the “opportunity to make a difference.”

“I am going to come in with a lot of energy,” he said.

Reflecting on the criminal docket, Welke takes an optimistic view of defendants.

“More times than not, I am a believer that people can change,” he said.

A Lake County resident since 1980, Welke is a member of the Florida Adoption Council and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Adoption Attorneys, according to his website.

Welke participated in placing over 400 children in adoptive homes.

In 1997, he began working as assistant county attorney for Lake County. Nine months later he opened his own practice in Mount Dora.

Since 1998, he has represented dozens of homeowners and mobile home renter associations in Lake County, according to his website.

However, now his practice is limited to primarily to private placement adoptions, estate planning and probate law.

In 2012, Welke opened Florida Adoption services, a full service adoption agency, his website also stated.