Justice Of Peace Election Not To Be Ignored

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A justice of the peace candidate recently spoke at a business lunch and after the presentation asked if there were any questions.

Not surprisingly, there were no questions, because no one knew what to ask. To the average resident, the upcoming justice of the peace elections do not spark the spirited dinner conversation of a mayoral or council election.

Part of it, we believe, is that many people do not understand the function or the importance of the justice of the peace in our area.

First, we applaud anyone willing to do this job.

We understand there are some residents who question the salary of the justice of the peace, which is currently set at $78,487.50 per year.

Hearing these concerns first tipped us off that people do not understand the duties someone accepts when they take the oath of office as the local justice of the peace.

When most people think of the justice of the peace job, they think of someone performing weddings, but as Ronnie McDaniel, who served for 18 years as regional justice of the peace, explained, the job is an immense commitment with a lot of pressure.

It's a 24 hour, 7 day a week job.

The justice of the peace is on call at all times. If a police officer wants a search warrant at 4 a.m., the justice of the peace answers the call. If an officer needs blood from a drunken driver, the justice of the peace must be available.

The justice of the peace serves as judge for misdemeanors and as the person who sets bonds for felonies. In a larger city, clerks would be in place to deal with the amount of paperwork and other administrative duties created by the job. In this small community, the burden is on the justice of the peace.

We understand that voters may not be paying too much attention to this election, but that would be a mistake.

The candidate is not required to have previous experience in the court system. Because it is an elected position, training is built into the job.

Instead, voters should look for other qualities -- like commitment to the job.

Because of the large workload, the person who takes this job should be willing to stay in the position for many years to come. This should not be a casual undertaking.

"You need someone who will be honest and fair on every case," McDaniel said. "You need to have compassion, but you need to enforce the laws.

"I always say it is not so much important to be able to talk to people as much as it is to listen. You have to let people say what they need to say. You'll have the time to talk later."

Early voting begins Aug. 10 for the September primaries. We have three people on the ballot -- an attorney, a furniture store owner with a criminal justice background and someone who is currently serving in the position as an appointee.

All three will be speaking at a forum for justice of the peace candidates sponsored by the Northern Gila County Republican Women at 2 p.m. Monday, Aug. 7 in the meeting room of the Payson Public Library.

This is a chance for voters to learn more about the position and the people who want to fill it.

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