Both races are contested, but just what do these jobs entail?

By Randy Parks
Burns Times-Herald

This year there are two contested races in the primary election for Harney County officials: Dan Nichols and Herb Vloedman are running for county commissioner, while seven are in the race for justice of the peace, including Kelly Edmondson, Jennifer Jenks, Dorothy Peterson, Donna Thomas, Dave McDonald, Valri Purdy and Jon Burri.

To get an idea of what each position entails, the Burns Times-Herald visited with Harney County Judge Steve Grasty and former Justice of the Peace Dewey Newton.

Grasty noted right off that elected officials don’t have job descriptions, and added that the county court is unique because it deals with all three branches of a governing body: legislative, judicial and administrative.

One of the main functions of the county court is the administration branch or running the business side of the county, including the appropriation of funds.

Per a decision made by an earlier county court, commissioners are paid one-third of the judge’s salary and that, along with all other elected positions, is reviewed by a citizens group on a regular basis.

Grasty said the court makes sure all state-mandated services are delivered, and they are available to citizens like no other elected officials in the state. The court also works to defend the county from state and federal decisions that would undo our culture and economics, Grasty said.

While all Oregon counties began with county courts, Harney County is one of only seven left with a court as the county’s governing body.

Newton said that since misdemeanor crimes were moved to circuit court jurisdiction, justice court is now primarily a traffic court.

The justice of the peace also handles small claims cases, up to $7,500, landlord/tenant disputes and marriages.
Cases heard in justice court would include, but are not limited to, speeding and other traffic violations, weighmaster violations and possession of less than an ounce of marijuana.

Newton said the duty of the justice of the peace is to listen to both sides of a case and make a determination based on the situation and interpretation of the statutes.

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