Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Joseph Mathias said yesterday he will retire from the bench when his 15-year term expires on Oct. 30, rather than seek reappointment from Gov. Harry Hughes.

The 67-year-old chief judge of Maryland's Sixth Judicial Circuit cited his age and the state law requiring all judges to retire by age 70 as his reasons for not seeking reappointment, explaining: "It just seems like a logical time. My wife says, 'You'd better leave now before everybody wishes you'd leave.' "

After 16 years, Mathias is the longest-serving of any sitting judge in the Sixth Circuit, which includes Montgomery and Frederick counties. He was appointed to the bench in 1965 and elected to a 15-year term one year later.

Mathias has been chief judge of the circuit since 1980, and has served as the circuit's administrative judge since 1976.

His retirement brings to two the number of vacancies on the 12-judge Montgomery County Circuit Court. The other vacancy is a newly created post that has not yet been filled.

Hughes will select Mathias' successor from a list of at least five applicants recommended to him by the 13-member judicial nominating commission. The commission will prepare its list from qualified Montgomery County lawyers who apply for the post by Nov. 6.