The day after Ector County voters elected Missi Walden to the justice of the peace seat in Precinct 2, County Judge Ron Eckert said he would like to appoint her to the position as soon as possible.
As there is no Democratic challenger for the seat, county commissioners have the option of appointing Walden to the position before she begins her elected four-year term in January.
Eckert said he would have to talk with the elections department to determine when commissioners would be able to legally appoint Walden. It is too late for her appointment to be placed on the agenda for the next commissioners’ court, scheduled for Tuesday, but Eckert said she would probably be appointed in June. Commissioners are scheduled to meet June 11 and June 25 that month.
Walden won the election Tuesday night during the May runoff between her and Matthew Stringer, after the two received the majority of votes in the March primary featuring five other candidates. Nearly 75 percent of voters cast their ballots in favor of Walden, pulling in 1,181 votes, while Stringer received 403 votes.
Walden said she was thrilled with her victory at an election party on Tuesday night following the election.
“I’m ecstatic,” Walden said. “I definitely didn’t expect it to be such a wide margin.”
Stringer said he congratulates Walden on her victory.
“I congratulate her on a well-earned victory and I pray for the Lord’s guidance over her as she begins her service to our county,” Stringer said.
One of the issues facing the office Walden will be appointed to is that it has been vacant since January, when former justice of the peace Christopher Clark was appointed to fill the vacant seat of County Court at Law No. 2.
“I know right away I need to start taking care of the backlog in civil, so we’ll start working on that,” Walden said on what she would like to do first when she takes office.
Currently, Senior Deputy Clerk Nicki Palmer said there are around 45 to 50 civil cases in the backlog of the Precinct 2 court that need to be addressed, and around five to 10 criminal cases.
“Considering how long it’s been since January, I don’t think that the backlog is as bad as you would think, but there is gonna be some stuff that needs to be taken care of pretty quickly,” Walden said.
Justices of the peace handle class C misdemeanor cases like traffic tickets and small civil claim cases with a jurisdictional limit of $10,000, such as landlord and tenant disputes. They also sign arrest warrants and certain search warrants, set bonds, sign protective orders and provide marriage licenses.
Walden said she would also like to start working on making the court more paperless by uploading cases in her court to the online county portal, a database showing trial and citation information issued in Ector County.