The theme of "experience" colored the second forum for the Payson Justice of the Peace candidates.
Incumbent Dorothy Little and her two Republican challengers, Dan Hill and Barry Standifird, faced off Thursday night at the Mazatzal Casino bingo hall.
Hosted by the Tonto Apache Tribe and KCMA 98.5FM, the three answered a series of six previewed questions, following their introductions. Within most of their responses, the candidates stressed their experience.
Little has worked in the Payson Justice Court for 19 years, becoming the court's assistant manager and assistant judge in 1991.
Hill has a degree in criminal justice from Arizona State University and has been a businessman and community leader in Payson for seven years.
Standifird has practiced law in Payson for 12 years, he is an arbitrator for the superior court, doing comparable work to that of a judge and serving as justice of the peace pro tem for former Justice of the Peace Ronnie McDaniel.
What do you feel the purpose of the justice of the peace office should be -- revenue generating or judicial?
"The justice court is independent," Little said. "It must be fair and impartial. The justice of the peace hears the evidence and testimony and decides based on that."
Hill said, "The court should be about the number of lives the justice helps put back on track -- the lives changed. We have a cash court and that has to change."
Standifird said, "The court is presumed to settle on the merits, not on the technicalities. It is to protect the community, punish the wrongdoers and restore the victim."
What would you do to prevent or reduce the number of cases in the court?
Hill said he would make a difference and break the cycle of violence by escalating the harshness of the sentences, but also use different tools, such as community service and education, as well as jail time.
Standifird proposes to get creative with sentencing and said he would impose consequences for failure to make restitution.
Little said she has introduced an educational program for young offenders and would like to go into the schools to teach the area's youth about the impact of having a record.
How are you prepared to overcome possible conflicts through close relationships in the community?
All three said they would remove themselves from a case where they had a conflict through association with either party. Little added it is also possible to let the parties decide if there is a conflict of interest.
What issues is the court not adequately addressing at this time?
Little said she feels her staff is very competent and has been acknowledge for their professionalism on several levels. However, she has a concern about the safety of the court for victims, witnesses, staff and the public. She also said there is not adequate space for a jury.
Hill wants to see more creative sentencing that will be best for the community, best for the victim and best for the perpetrator. He also thinks orders of protection are too easily issued and need closer study in each case.
Standifird is also concerned about the court's safety. He wants to see more jail time for repeat offenders, more creative ideas to restore the victims and plea offers rejected.
What's your perspective on domestic abuse and the protection of victims?
Hill said he would punish abusers to the fullest allowed by the law and work to help the victims get counseling and learn their options.
Little said domestic violence has consequences for everyone. She works with the Time Out Shelter and other agencies for the protection of counseling of victims, and also strives to make sure the perpetrators have counseling and treatment.
Standifird said consistent punishment is needed, along with education from the bench. He would put those guilty of second domestic violence offenses in jail and make them aware of the much more serious consequences of third offenses.
What life experiences will you bring to the position and how do they qualify you for the job?
Standifird said his work in psychology with sex offenders, work in the juvenile courts and other endeavors provide him with experience from which to be a creative justice of the peace.
Little said she has been in Payson for more than 25 years and in the courts for 19 years.
Hill said the people skills he has developed as a businessman and community leader are the strongest assets he would bring to the job.
He said he would serve with fairness, compassion and common sense.
The primary election is Sept. 12, early voting is taking place now. The last to day to register to vote in the primary is Aug. 14.
-- To reach Teresa McQuerrey call 474-5251 ext. 113 or e-mail email@example.com.