Kaufman County JP2 Candidates Discuss Eligibility, Intentions
The last race to square off at the Kaufman County GOP sponsored candidate forum last Thursday, were those seeking election to Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 in Kaufman County: Amy Tarno, Ty Burnes, Matthew Scharmen, and Scott Whitaker. They began with opening statements.
Kaufman County Justice of the Peace Precinct 2 candidate Amy Tarno is a wife, mother, small business owner with her husband, and full time paralegal in a Dallas law firm. She grew up in Mesquite and attended Eastfield College. After college, she began her career as a paralegal at the Ashmore Law Firm in 2001. Tarno attends continuing legal education courses several times a year, and has real courtroom experience with knowledge in many areas of civil law. She has attended, “sat second chair,” and helped prepare for hundreds of hearings and trials through the last 16 years. “I’ve worked for some great judges, and I’ve learned a lot about how to run a court and an efficient docket. With my experience, I believe I can run a court that is fair, accessible, efficient, and provide outstanding customer service.”
Tarno and her family have lived in Forney for 16 years. Two of her children have graduated North Forney High School, and attend college, one is a Senior, and their youngest attends Brown Middle School. Active in the community, they attend church, operate a business: Forney Computer Repair, she serves on various committees for her children’s school activities, and volunteers for the Forney Food Pantry, and is a member of the Kaufman County Republican Women’s Club. She wants to serve because she loves her community and believes she has much to offer.
Ty Burnes has been a police officer for the Terrell Police Department for the last 17 years, and is also running for Kaufman County JP2 in Forney. The last eight years, he has worked in the narcotics division. Prior to that, he worked 3½ years for the Terrell ISD Police Department. He was also a Terrell PD Reserve officer for four years. He is married 21 years with two children. One is in high school, the other is a third grader in elementary school.
Burnes has considered running for Justice of the Peace for a long time, and pointed out that the JP’s office has a lot to do with customer service. Before becoming a police officer, he worked for Brookshire’s Grocery and said that one thing he learned there was to take care of the customer. The JP works for the people, and “That’s one thing I’ll never forget,” Burnes promised. “I’ve been a public servant since 1993, and I’m an extremely hard worker.”
Because he’s been in and out of courtrooms, testifying, he claimed familiarity with court procedures, which Burnes believes will be beneficial experience applied to the position.
Matthew Scharmen purports to be a constitutional conservative who moved to Kaufman County 12 years ago with his family and put down roots. He joined their Homeowners Association and the local Republican Party and became a Precinct Chairman, who worked elections as a clerk, then an Election Judge.
He is now serving as a Director for a utility district in the area. Scharmen said that he worked with Commissioners, and “It took me three years working with the Commissioners Court to get rid of a sales tax in the area to increase the appraised value of the houses, and also to decrease the taxes for the area. I am running for Justice of the Peace because I’m told that most of the people in my area have a big problem that they want me to help with…and that’s working with children. JPs work with truancy and juvenile crimes and that’s pretty much why I’m running for Justice of the Peace…I want to run a common-sense court.”
Scott Whitaker lives in Forney with his wife and has five children. Three are gone, two have graduated high school and moved on to college, one graduated from college and is married. He is expecting his first grandchild. Once he was honorably discharged from the Navy, he started his career in public service as a licensed jailer in East Texas Red River County. He earned his peace officer license, and currently holds a Masters Peace Officer License, and works for the Dallas Police Department. He is in the Administration office, and prepares evidence for criminal and civil cases, and is certified by the State of Texas to process Open Records Requests. He worked for the Dallas County Sheriff’s Office for three years and attended the Dallas Civil Law Class. Whitaker has 28 years of law enforcement experience with over 20 years of courtroom experience, testifying in both civil and criminal cases, ranging from misdemeanors to felonies.
“Interacting with citizens during their time of need and making decisions whether or not I have a criminal offense or a civil matter, all under a controlled environment, I have performed my duties as a public servant with the highest ethics, earning two shining star ethics awards from the Dallas Police Department. One was for the work that I do with the Children’s Advocacy Center, bringing awareness to child abduction, which led to the Amber Alert that we have today… Having the ability to take away someone’s liberty or someone’s life, is not a responsibility I have ever taken lightly.”
Whitaker believes he works well under pressure, and has a heart to continue as a public servant.
The first question asked of each candidate was: What do you believe are the top two most important functions of the JP office?
Tarno answered: 1) Landlord and tenant disputes and, 2) Truancy cases because JP2 handles truancy cases for all of Kaufman County.
Burnes replied: 1) Assess bonds when JPs magistrate people at the County jail and, 2) Accessibility to the people and transparency.
Scharmen answered: 1) Truancy and juvenile crime, 2) Streamlining the courts to empty out the County jail. “Housing prisoners there costs money, and we need to get them out as much as possible.”
Whitaker responded: 1) Communication 2) Consistency. “If you know how to articulate to your citizens what you’re going to do, what’s going to happen, in any particular situation, that is important…it’s more comfortable for them.”
Second Question: A Justice of the Peace requires many hours before and after regular business hours. Do you feel that you will be able to dedicate the time needed to do the job?
All candidates answered in the affirmative, citing that they already serve at all hours in their current positions; and they will be available to the citizenry when called upon at any hour, without hesitation.
Candidates made closing remarks, which are highlighted here:
Tarno called the JP court the “People’s Court,” and explained the various duties of the court: traffic and other misdemeanor cases punishable by fine, civil cases up to $10,000 in dispute, landlord/tenant disputes, truancy cases, perform magistrate duties, and conduct inquests. “I believe in three key pillars of the court,” Tarno said, and then she listed them: 1) Fairness – a judge that follows the law and doesn’t legislate from the bench; 2) Accessibility to law enforcement, inmates, and all who use the Court; 3) Efficient Court – She will look for ways to save taxpayers money.
Burnes is a deacon at the Church of Christ in Terrell, and touted his experience as a police officer. “I will be very transparent. You will be able to get ahold of me. I look at this job as a full-time job. I will be there day and night, doing whatever needs to be done.”
Scharmen said, “I don’t want to be just a regular Justice of the Peace, and be behind the bench the whole time. I think the authority of Justice of the Peace has just not been used to its full extent.” He referred to civil law and administrative duties, and said, “…there are a lot of things that they can do. They have the ability and free time at times, to go work on things that are just not in the court rooms… I want to be proactive; and work on things before they become problems.” He wants to take high school students to the local jail and show them what can happen if they disobey the law, and provide guidance to help them become good citizens.
Whitaker focused on the need of a JP to be compassionate, respectful, understanding, have integrity, be accountable, and consistent. He also emphasized having an ability to communicate. “All those values are things I was taught by my parents, and those are the kind of values I want to bring to the Justice of the Peace.” He then promised to work with other agencies and County offices.
The next Kaufman GOP-sponsored candidate forum will host candidates for State Representative, State Senate and Congressional District 5 for the United States House of Representatives on February 13, at 7:00 p.m. in the Kaufman High School cafeteria.
Super Tuesday is March 6, 2018 and early voting begins February 20 and goes through March 2.