Community Impact Newspaper reached out to all candidates for Hays County justice of the peace, Precinct 2. Below are responses from incumbent Beth Smith, who was first elected in 1999.
Length of residency in Hays County: 46 years
Experience: 20 years as justice of the peace; 18 years as a municipal judge; seven years inducted into the College of Justice Court; over 1,000 hours continuing education; served on 17 boards to better educate myself with resources that I can utilize in this position.
Why are you running? I consider this position a way of life instead of a job. It’s 24/7/365 and I feel I am making a difference in a lot of lives, especially the young people I see. It’s the peoples’ court and probably the first encounter with the justice system they will have. I want them to see it as fair and impartial, and as a place that can help them if they need it. Hopefully from then they won’t move on to a higher court.
As the county grows, what do you believe is the greatest challenge facing the office of justice of the peace? The Precinct 2 court has one-third of the caseload in Hays County. My clerks have kept up, due to working smarter with the technology that they have acquired. Our caseload is totally caught up. No backlog at all in this court, due partially to the technology but mostly to the fact that I put in a lot of hours. I don’t mind being called in during off-for-most-regular-office hours. The court docket is run very smoothly and precisely, and the staff and I understand the concept of communication, not only with the public but with each other. With that said, being on-call 24/7, the call-outs also have considerably increased. The challenge of no “off” time is sometimes a bit trying. I’ve downsized a few of my extra volunteer positions with nonprofits. The ever-changing laws require a lot of studying and familiarizing ourselves with new laws every other year. I also work with many different agencies and each has a different technique that I adjust to when conducting inquest investigations.
What would be your top priorities as justice of the peace? The same thing that I campaigned on my first year in office in 1999: working toward a safer community with the school district and law enforcement agencies, but most importantly with the citizens of Precinct 2; justice, fair but firm; honesty; courtesy; integrity; accuracy; working for the constituents to improve technology and to keep our system equitable for all.