Candidates share views in JP #2 race

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By SEAN SHAPIRO

Judge Edna Staudt and Dan Michael are vying for Williamson County Justice of the Peace in Precinct 2, which serves Liberty Hill, and both are interested in the job for similar reasons.

They both want the job done the right way, and they both want to have a positive impact on the community — not just issue fines to offenders.

Staudt, a Republican from Leander seeking her sixth term in the position, said she believes her track record stands for itself.

“I ran the first time because I wanted someone in this position with common sense,” Staudt said. “It’s a very common-sense based role. How to respond and respect people, especially young people since it’s the first court many people ever really see.”

A justice of the peace has jurisdiction over misdemeanors – particularly traffic violations — truancy, evictions, and civil lawsuits up to $10,000. A law degree isn’t required, and neither candidate is a lawyer.

Staudt, now 65, said she believes the post has an opportunity to help younger individuals learn and grow from their mistakes, not just pay a fine.

She has created and implemented programs targeted at younger citizens. Amongst these, Staudt created a program that pairs mentors with teenagers who get into trouble, while she also created a teen court where punishments for community service are also determined.

Michael, a Libertarian also from Leander, has similar beliefs about fines and community service.

A police officer for more than 30 years, the 61-year old said he has vast experience working with younger people and mediating, things he says would be key to the position.

“I’ve worked a lot with children,” Michael said. “And when kids start to get in trouble as a teenager a fine, likely paid by mom or dad, probably isn’t going to be the best option. I don’t want to create a pipeline to prison, I want to help kids learn when they come before this court.”

Michael said he believes heavily in community service. While fines are necessary, community service goes a long way in helping citizens learn from mistakes.

If elected, Michael said he would also like to expand the court’s operation to be open to the public five days a week. Right now the court is closed on Mondays to the public, but staffers are still working, Staudt said.

For Michael, running for public office was something he always thought about, but never really considered until this year.

“I’ve always wanted to (run),” he said. “A lot of my life has been helping people, you’re not just busting people all the time as a police officer. I want to continue to help the community, and this would be a way I could serve the public for few more years.”

Michael said there are times right now when he will be driving to work and imagining how he would deal with possible situations, and if elected he would take the same helpful attitude to the court.

Both candidates said they have spent time in Liberty Hill campaigning.

Michael said he has visited the area and placed signs in the community.

Staudt said she has spent time in Liberty Hill, attends church in town, and watched the community grow in the past 20 years — something she said is important for the justice of the peace to understand.

“It (the JP Court) has seen a major increase in numbers,” Staudt said. “Instead of 6,000 criminal cases a year, like it used to be, it’s closer to 9,000 to 12,000 a year now.”

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