By Marty Trese, KnoxPages.com Editor
MOUNT VERNON - When Republicans head to the polls for the March 15 primary they will be choosing the next Common Pleas Court judge to replace the retiring Otho Eyster. At this point no Democratic or Independent candidate is running.
Thursday night Richard Wetzel and Noel Alden participated in a candidate's forum at the Knox County Memorial Theater to speak out about their qualifications for the job.
GOP Common Pleas Court Judge candidates Richard Wetzel, left, and Noel Alden answer questions at a candidate's forum in Mount Vernon Thursday night - KnoxPages.com photo by Marty Trese
Below is a summary of question/answers asked Thursday night.
Wetzel - 33 years of experience in law in courtrooms across Ohio in 17 counties, all outside Knox County. From McConnelsville. He has handled 4 civil jury trials and 9 bench trials and has served as village solicitor for several villages, current trial lawyer at a Columbus firm. One of his clients is Ohio State University defending against malpractice lawsuits in the Ohio Court of Claims. He has argued cases in U.S. District Court and the Ohio Supreme Court.
Alden - Partner at Zelkowitz, Barry, & Cullers in Mount Vernon. Solicitor for Village of Danville, Brinkhaven, Marengo. Counsel for Clinton Township Water Sewer District and Apple Valley Property Owners Association. In addition to being an attorney - runs a 140 head dairy farm with his family, has lived in Knox County since 1999. Founded Danville Academic Foundation. Serves on boards for Hospice of Knox County and Knox County Head Start and Danville School Board and has coached football, baseball, and Danville's Mock Trial team. Has handled over 500 cases in Knox County Common Pleas Court and 50 felony cases in Knox County. Jury trial experience outside of Knox County. Bench trials in criminal, civil and felony cases.
How does the Republican Party endorsement process work? How many people are involved? Do those who voting to decide on endorsements have information not available to the general public? (Wetzel has been endosed by the Knox County Republican Party)
Alden - I have no idea. I am an open book. All the information about me - I'm local, everybody knows me. I've always been professional and have done a good job. While the Knox County Republican Party didn't endorsed me, I've been endorsed by almost the entire Knox County bar association which has been very supportive. The people that know the work that I do are behind me. I was not a member of the Central Committee, Rick was a member and had to resign to run for this office so I assume he had some close personal relationships with those folks and that paid off with an endorsement.
Wetzel - I have been working around Knox County for 15 years. I have been involved in the community. I am a member of the Knox County Farm Bureau, the National Rifle Association, the Ohio Sheep Improvement Association, Liberty Twp. zoning commission. I spent the last 8 months criss-crossing the county. I went to every township trustee meeting and visited city council meetings, school boards, to find out what the community is concerned about. I met with Central Committee members. I don't know that there is a Knox County Bar Association endorsement. (Alden corrected his remark to say the members of the Knox County bar.)
Knox County Drug Epidemic
Alden - The key is we have an incredibly difficult drug problem. When people hit bottom with drug issues, they need to take rehab seriously. I'm willing to give people a chance with their drug issues. But they better not show up again in my court. Pre-sentence investigations are used by probation officers. I would like to empower those officers to make sure we have all the information we need so we can sentence them appropriately.
Wetzel - People have asked what we are going to do about the drug problem. The Constitution begins with the words, "We the People..." and I think it's up to we the people to address the problems in our community. One way to do that is to support the local organizations already at work serving the at-risk population. Wetzel mentioned Touchpointe which provides family counseling services, Relationships under Constuction, Starting Point, The Escape Zone which helps kids after school, Veterans Services Office, churches, Ariel Foundation, New Directions, the Freedom Center, United Way. I would like the court to encourage people to support these organizations so we have a place to send people who come before the court in order to get them the help they need.
To learn more about these candidates visit their websites.
The primary election will be held March 15, 2016 and early voting begins February 17. For more information about voting visit the Ohio Secretary of State website or the Knox County Board of Elections.