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GOSHEN -- The race for judge of Goshen City Court features an Elkhart County prosecutor, Republican Gretchen Hess Lund, and longtime local attorney Joe Lehman, a Democrat.
Neither has held elective office, so it'll be a first for whoever gets the nod from voters on Nov. 6 for the part-time post.
Moreover, the race is something of a watershed. With incumbent Cecilia McGregor sitting it out because of health reasons -- subs have filled in as city judge since October 2005, when she took medical leave due to multiple sclerosis -- the winner will be the first new city judge here since 1984. That's when McGregor, who won re-election five times, was first appointed.
Lehman, 58, who has run his own general practice since 1990 save for a three-year stint with another law firm, touts his years of experience.
"My success as a local attorney as well as my 16 years of serving the public in the Goshen community make me the best candidate," he said.
Lund, 32, who handles felony child support cases as an assistant county prosecutor, says resolving disputes is her strength, making her a natural fit for the judgeship.
"Ultimately that's what a good judge should do -- come up with good resolutions to things that happen in our community," she said.
Goshen City Court came under fire last year by some who said the body should be eliminated because of the cost of running it. Both hopefuls, however, back its continuation, saying the court is vital as a means of handling local disputes locally.
City court handles misdemeanors, traffic infractions, ordinance violations and other such cases originating in Goshen.
Nonetheless, support for the court doesn't mean the candidates don't think there should be change.
Lund, who grew up on a farm west of Goshen and graduated from NorthWood High School, proposes handling traffic cases and ordinance violations one evening a week. That way, defendants wouldn't have to leave work early to make court.
Such change also would alleviate time restraints on criminal court days, she said, allowing for more efficient handling of such cases.
Whatever the case, any change would be made gradually, involving everyone who works in the system, Lund said.
"What I want to do is work at a pace that everyone is comfortable with," she said.
Lehman, who grew up in Goshen and graduated from Goshen High School before professional stints in Hawaii and the Marshall Islands, believes the court is here to stay, notwithstanding debate last year on its future.
Accordingly, he'll "work to keep it operating in a fiscally sound manner so as not to burden the taxpayers," he said.
Similar to Lund, he proposes handling traffic cases on Thursday nights to make it easier for defendants to attend court and to more efficiently divvy up the court's caseload. Reading of defendants' rights via videotape, in both English and Spanish, could be another means of streamlining court activity.
More broadly, Lehman touts his candidacy as a way of countering the "thrall" of the Republican Party in Elkhart County. The GOP "lives in the past and not in the dynamic present," he said.
Lund cites her even-handed manner and her people skills.
"I enjoy working with people. I look at things practically, very reasonably," she said.
If elected, Lund would leave her prosecutor job and devote all her professional time to the part-time court post, using her private time to volunteer and be with family. She and her husband have a young daughter.
Lehman would maintain his private practice, but he said work there is flexible enough that he would be able to attend to city court duties.
Contact Tim Vandenack at email@example.com.