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Candidates in the March 4 GOP primary for county offices had an opportunity on Feb. 6 to make their cases to voters, in a forum sponsored by the Republican Party of Lamar County.
Early voting starts today at the county courthouse annex in the 200 block of Lamar Avenue.
Presented below are the opening statements of the three candidates — all running in the Republican primary– for Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 2.
The incumbent, Gene C. Hobbs Jr., and his two opponents, Jesse James Freelen and Curtis Garrett, appeared in the order their names appear on the ballot.
Each had up to two minutes to give an opening statement, then up to two minutes to answer questions that were supplied them ahead of time.
GENE C. HOBBS, 54, 150 Funston Terrace, Reno — My name is Gene C. Hobbs Jr., and I am your current Justice of the Peace for Precinct 5, Place 2, a position I have held since October of 2012.
Judge Ernie Sparks first asked me to apply for the Office in the summer of 2012, after I had just won the office of constable for Precinct 5 for my fourth term.
I was chosen for the position for my qualifications and my experience with civil and criminal law from 10 applicants, and I had to decline the office of constable in order to accept the appointment for the Justice of the Peace.
Since that time, my office has handled over 2,600 class “C” misdemeanors, which include traffic cases, and I have tried over 170 civil cases, over 250 evictions, and issued over 1,500 magistrate warnings and bond settings for people under arrest, as well as many other types of cases.
I graduated from Paris High School in 1977 and attended Paris Junior College. I have also received training from Sam Houston State University, the Justice of the Peace and Constable’s Association of Texas, Collin County Community College, and Justice Court Training Center in Austin.
I have over 34 years of law enforcement, including 16 years of civil and criminal procedures, and I hold a Master Peace Officer’s License.
As I stated earlier, I was constable for Precinct 5 from 2000 until 2012, and during that time I worked closely with the justice of the peace courts in the areas of truancies, serving and enforcing evictions, and serving other documents required for emergency detention of mental patients, serving and levying upon writs of execution, carrying out writs of sequestration and many other issues.
In addition, I worked closely with the juvenile officers in trying to combat and reduce truancy.
I would like to continue to serve the people of Lamar County as their Justice of the Peace and feel that I am the most qualified candidate. I would appreciate your vote on March 4. Thank you.
JESSE JAMES FREELEN, 58, 115 45th St. SW, Paris – My name is Jesse James Freelen. I was born and raised in Paris, Texas. I’ve been married for 18 years. My wife is Tina Freelen. We have a son, Jake, who is 13. I’m very proud of Jake and Tina both.
I have worked for Kimberly-Clark for 25 years, and in that 25 years I have held many positions. I was in logistics, operations, maintenance and emergency response team coordinator. i am currently the president of Paris Emergency Reserves.
As former mayor of Paris, it was my responsibility to know the ordinances of the City of Paris and to ensure that those ordinances were enforced. The mayor’s role is similar to the justice of the peace with one exception. As mayor, you deal with those issues that affect the entire community, whereas as justice of the peace you deal with issues that affect individuals.
As justice of the peace, it will be my responsibility to know and uphold those laws. i will hold myself to the highest standards , and in that process, I will strive to make that process as painless as possible. I feel the education I received the three years I was mayor have prepared me for the position of justice of the peace.
My three years as mayor, I worked a fulltime job, and I dedicated all my excess time to fulfill my duties as mayor. I am excited about getting the opportunity to be justice of the peace and dedicating my entire time to serving the community. This will give me a chance to join other organizations such as Rotary and Kiwanis clubs, which I greatly believe in for our community.
As former mayor of Paris, I feel I bring a unique quality to the office of Justice of the Peace. I have a good working relationship with Paris and Reno, and I will use that relationship with the office of Justice of the Peace and Lamar County. I will not be an 8-to-5 justice of the peace. i will be a 24/7 justice of the peace.
I will think outside the box, I will serve the citizens of Paris and Reno and put together a program to use the citizens as resources for the office.
CURTIS GARRETT, 49, 415 Airport Road, Reno — My name is Curtis Garrett. Many of you know me, and I know many of you. I was born here in Paris, raised here in Paris. My parents are from Paris. My father graduated from Blossom High School. I graduated from North Lamar along with my brother and sister.
My wife, Kristi, and I have been married for almost 25 years, and I have been a police officer for almost 26 years. Over my career, I have been a patrol officer, i have been on the SWAT team for 21 years, I have served as the warrant officer for 13 years.
During that time I spent a lot of time in the justice of the peace’s office and knew several of the judges that have held that office. So I kind of have a working knowledge of how that office works.
I have a son who is in the United States Army. He will be finishing up his career with that in April and will be home soon, and my wife is planning a wedding in March. So it is a very busy time around our house.
I am also grounded and rooted in our community. I have been in several civic organizations. I am one of the founding members of the Reno Kiwanis Club, I have also had offices, including president, of the Breakfast Optimist Club here in Paris.
With that, I just wish that you knew me and that I get to know you, and I would ask for your vote on March 4 for justice of the peace.
QUESTION 1: What qualifications do you possess to hold this position, and why are you seeking this position?
CURTIS GARRETT – I have been in law enforcement for nearly 26 years. I am a very fair and just person. During the time I was a warrant officer, I had a very, very good working relationship with the citizens of Paris, and I had a reputation of being fair and just.
People would call me on the phone and say, “Officer Garrett, I think I have a warrant for my arrest. What can I do about that?” And I would walk them through the process.
There were mornings that I would get to work and have five or six people sitting in the lobby waiting on me so that I could take care of their problems. So I have always been known as fair and just. And my door is always open and I will help anybody that needs help.
Why I want the office is, I have been talking about this for eight years. I told Ernie Sparks , when we talked about it, that I would never run against him. But I did say that I would run for the job when he retired.
At the time that Mr. Sparks retired, I applied for the position, but God did me a favor and did not give it to me, because of two reasons. First of all, I wasn’t 50 years old, and that’s a big hit on my retirement from the police department.
Also, I did not have 25 years with the police department at the time, and that was another big hit on my retirement. Now that I have those two goals accomplished, my retirement will be better and I am really looking forward to a second career.
So that’s why I am seeking the office of Justice of the Peace, Precinct 5, Place 2.
JESSE JAMES FREELEN — I feel my three years as mayor of Paris have paved the way for me to hold this position. In my duties as mayor, overseeing the City of Paris, we went through some really tough issues, and I think I handled that really well.
I think I’m a huge asset to the community in the fact that I am a fair, honest person. I would give anything in the world to make our community a better place.
The reason i want this position is I have a passion for community service.
Dealing with Paris EMS, I have worked many, many functions, and I love Paris, I love Lamar County, and I’d like to hold this position. Thank you.
GENE HOBBS — I have 34 years in law enforcement, including 16 years of working civil cases with the JP courts. I have received training from the Justice Court Training Center in Austin, and the Justice of the Peace and Constable’s Association of Texas.
And like I said, I not only worked with the office, I was right next door. So I was in the JP’s office all the time.
I am seeking the position because I enjoy helping others, and I feel I can make a difference, and feel I am a fair and impartial Judge for the people of Lamar County. I have people call me all the time and want to come see me. My door is always open. Thank you.
QUESTION 2: What do you see as the biggest challenge for the office, and what would you change if you are elected?
GENE HOBBS: One of the biggest challenges I think we are facing now is helping our school districts keep young people in school. I have started a program already to help these children make the right decision about their education, including having them attend tutorials and having them in counseling.
Another problem we’re facing right now is that we are in the process of upgrading software and programs, which will make the office more efficient. These changes should enable us to better serve the public.
In the process, we are also implementing the ability to accept debit and credit cards for people for the payment of fees, fines, and court costs.
JESSE JAMES FREELEN – I think the biggest challenge of this office is coming behind the individuals that was here before. I think having Chester Oaks and Fred Nutt and Ernie Sparks as former justices of the peace is a huge high standard to hold up to. I believe with the help of (current office employees) Peggy and Jill that I can do that, and I am ready for that challenge.
And I think that what I can do to make this office better is I’d like to work for the citizens of Paris and Lamar County for the fact that keeping this courthouse open during the lunch hours, when people can conduct business.
Some people work from 8 to 5. They don’t have the luxury of getting off work and coming to take care of business. I promise you when you elect me justice of the peace, the office will be open from 8 to 5, no matter what it takes so I can serve the citizens of Lamar County.
CURTIS GARRETT — The biggest challenge I see with the justice of the peace office is, like Mr. Hobbs said, our children. The truancy problem is great, and there need to be programs that will deter these children from skipping school.
And that’s not just the students’ fault. That’s also parents’ fault. And so, my biggest challenge is to figure out how to get hold of these parents and make them realize that without an education these children have no chance of a future.
As for as the challenge of what I’d like to see change, from what I get around the office, Mr. Sparks ran a smooth office. He had two secretaries, and one had the civil cases and one had the criminal cases.
They made that office, so I don’t know that I would change anything in that office other than, again, having my doors open and being fair to the people and letting them know they have an avenue that they can seek when they have a problem.
By Charles Richards, eParisExtra