As early voting in Young County approaches from Feb. 18-28, there are two key races set for the March 4 primary election. One is for the justice of the peace for precinct 1 position, and the other is for county clerk.

There are other initiatives on the ballot, such as a yes or no vote for whether “Texas should support Second Amendment liberties by expanding locations where concealed handgun license-holders may legally carry,” or whether “Texas recipients of taxpayer-funded public assistance should be subject to random drug testing as a condition of receiving benefits.”

There are also exciting races for key state and national positions on the ballot, from the eight-candidate U.S. Senate race featuring John Cornyn as the incumbent, to the gubernatorial vote featuring front-runner Greg Abbott. But for Young County, the majority of positions only have one candidate.

Among uncontested county positions, Judge John Bullock is running unopposed for county Judge, as is Jamie Land for district clerk, Ann Daily for county treasurer, Kyle Milam for county chairman, Matt Pruitt for county commissioner of precinct two and Jimmy Wiley for county commissioner of precinct 4. About the JP position In the state of Texas, justices of the peace are elected every four years.

During the 2014 elections for Young County, the justice of the peace slots for precincts one and three are up for reelection, with only precinct one having more than one candidate in its race. The state of Texas doesn't mandate that a JP be an attorney, but a viable candidate must prove to be “well versed in the law.”

According to the Texas Association of Counties: “Justices of the peace hear misdemeanor cases punishable by fine only and can hear most civil cases in which the amount in controversy does not exceed $10,000. The justice of the peace also performs the functions of a magistrate and conducts inquests. In addition, a justice of the peace may issue warrants for search and arrest. Justices of the peace also issue civil process, conduct preliminary hearings, administer oaths, perform marriages and serve as a coroner in counties where there is no medical examiner. The justice of the peace may also conduct inquests.”

At the end of last year, just after announcing his retirement from the JP-1 post, Judge James Ross shared some of his wisdom with the Graham Leader about what it means to be a justice of the peace in Young County.

 “I threw my hat in the ring and was fortunate enough to not have an opponent,” Ross said. “This was really the job I was suited for, so I ran for the job and was fortunate enough to get it.”

Ross has experienced and learned much in his two terms. He has received training at various seminars and training centers. He confessed that one of the hardest tasks of the JP-1 position is dealing with unattended deaths.

“You have to pronounce the time of death,” he said. “You have to order autopsies, make arrangements with the Tarrant County Medical Examiner's office and arrange for transportation of the body. It never happens during the day while you're at work, it always happens at night when you're sleeping. You're pretty wound up after you do something like that at 2 a.m., and you really can't go back to sleep.”

A little bit from your 2014 JP-1 Candidates

Robert Dial (R): “I've been thinking about this for several years, and I was not going to run unless Jim Ross retired because he has done an excellent job,” Dial told the Graham Leader in December 2013. “I've been really interested in this and I would like an opportunity to get a chance to be the justice of the peace. I would be fair and impartial to everyone, but all my decisions would be based upon the law.”

Ronnie Chestnut (R): “I worked with JPs in my career for making death calls and house calls, and have also seen the law enforcement side of it, too,” Chestnut told the Graham Leader, also in December 2013. “I just wanted to use my experience and what I've done over the years and try to serve in a public office and have put a lot of thought into it. I just felt like I could do a good job doing that. I would try to continue to be fair and compassionate with the people that I'm dealing with.”

Jamye Rogers (R): “I feel confident enough to run,” Rogers told the Graham Leader in December 2013. “I feel that Judge Ross has done a super job and I'd like to continue what he has done, but I would also like to explore other ways of working with the juvenile offenders and seeking out more programs and other topics along those lines. I'm in full support of our law enforcement and agencies, and will be looking for opportunities to work with them however it would benefit our community.”

Jesse Martin (D): “I've been a life member of the National Rifle Association for over 35 years,” Martin told the Graham Leader in December of 2013. “But really, there are a lot of things on the Democratic platform that I agree with, and there are things on the Republican platform that I agree with. I've just always been a Democrat...But a justice of the peace is not as political as something like a legislator and shouldn't be.”

About the county clerk

According to the Texas Association of Counties:

-A county clerk has many duties, from overseeing elections, to maintaining birth, marriage and death records, to acting as chief clerk of the county court system.
-The county clerk files candidates running for public office, and depending on the size of the county, will also serve as the county recorder.
-Due to the position's high involvement in county election activity, a county clerk is in charge of recruiting, appointing and training election workers, as well as overseeing ballots, polling places and voting equipment.
-Should citizens submit petitions to recall a ballot initiative or a public official, those petitions go to the county clerk.
-In terms of records, the county clerk typically handles all foreclosures, trust deeds and land transfers. -Also, all recording fees must go to the county clerk, who then turns them over to the comptroller's office.

A little bit from your county clerk candidates

Debra Taylor (R): “I worked in the office under Shirley Choate for 6 years, and I've performed the duties of the county clerk for the past three plus years,” Taylor told the Graham Leader. “Also, for the past three years I've had over 80 hours of continuous training on the job. The Graham Leader ran a story on my campaign promises in 2010, and I have since fulfilled each one of those campaign promises.”

Kay Hardin (R): “I've been in local government for the past 35 years,” Hardin told the Graham Leader. “I think I have the knowledge to bring to that office and to make the county clerk a professional work environment. I started off as a dispatcher, then became a police officer for Young County as one of its first female officers. I've worked in the justice of the peace office and three local attorneys' offices. I've worked in the county attorney's office, the county judge's office, and now I'm in the county auditor's office.”

Read the entire informational election packet in this weekend's Graham Leader.