Valdosta Daily Times

April 8, 2013

A public defender’s punk rock roots

Stuart Taylor
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA —  If you happened to walk into Ashley Street Station, the tucked away bar on the corner of North Ashley and Park Avenue, on March 22, you would have seen local band Loomis Orange take the stage for the first time.

A punk rock outfit specializing in songs of love and loves lost, Loomis Orange is made up of drummer Gee Edwards, bassist Jordan Ganas and guitarist Wade Krueger. Krueger, who serves as lyricist for the band, also does a lot of writing in his day job, as a public defender for Lowndes County.

So how did the punk rock songwriter get into public defending? To tell that story, we have to go back a few years.

After growing up in Hawkinsville, Krueger attended Georgia Southern University, earning a Bachelor's and Master's in English.

“I've always had a love of literature and language,” said Krueger. “I wanted to go on and get my Ph.D.  and become an English teaching classes, talking with brilliant writers and students.”

But, after starting his PhD work at Ohio State University, Krueger had a change of heart.

“I pretty quickly became disenchanted with it,” said Krueger.

After mulling over his options, Krueger decided to stay on at OSU and earn an MFA in Creative Writing.

“I took every step I could to make myself be less employable,” chuckled Krueger.

 While working on his MFA, Krueger started writing short stories and poetry, which segued into songwriting for two bands: Jack Diesel and Büdro, named after a nickname Krueger earned after using the common southern derivative of “buddy,” budro, in a non-fiction essay he wrote. The professor of the class proceeded to repeatedly mispronounce it as Büdro and the name stuck.

Krueger stayed in Ohio after earning his MFA, working as an adjunct English instructor at local colleges.

“I wanted a more marketable skill,” said Krueger. “Law was something that wasn't too far removed from my grad schoolwork...from working with language and the humanities.”

Settling on the University of Georgia—“I had a friend living in Athens who I knew I could start a band with”—Krueger started digging into the daily grind.

“Law school was a different kind of academic environment,” said Krueger. “It's relentlessly dry.”

After becoming more interested in social causes—“It quickly emerged to me that I didn't want to practice the kind of law that gets you in the law school brochure”—Krueger started working with the Athens Justice Project which, upon graduation, led to a job offer from Georgia Legal Services to work as a Public Defender in Valdosta, where he and his wife, Heather Maldonado, have been since 2005.

“I see a lot of drug cases, property crime, forgery, theft. The kind of violent crimes that make the paper are few and far between.”

Krueger's weeks vary. Some weeks he's in court every day; some weeks he's in the office every day, prepping cases. He finds a weekly constant in the music.

“I get up early so I have time for it. I plug in the headphones and run it through Garage Band.”

His drive to pursue social causes extends outside of the courtroom as well with Krueger participating in Leadership Lowndes and as a coach to the Lowndes High's Mock Trial team.

“There's a whole different level of engagement with Mock Trial. Every student is there because they have a passion for it, not because they have to...I really consider it and Leadership Lowndes as extensions of my office, as serving the community.”

It's not the life he planned when he set out to GSU, but like another songwriter said, life is what happens when you're making other plans.

“When I feel like I've made a positive impact on someone's life, helped someone through the confusing's not an opportunity in every case, but when it happens, it lights the fire back up.”