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Justice of the Peace, Prec. 1: Gregory S. Stewart
Name: Gregory S. Stewart
Office running for: Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1
Political experience: First experience seeking to retain my current position.
Family: Married for 23 years to my wife Debbie; three school-aged children.
Please describe your platform
My platform is to use my knowledge, experience and work ethic to bring long-term stability and professionalism to the court. I will work tirelessly to improve performance at all levels of court operations and to do those things that will promote public trust and confidence in the court. I will continue to seek avenues to increase offender accountability, to promote behavior modification and to reduce recidivism.
If elected, what is your first priority?
We have accomplished a great deal since I began as Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, but much more remains to be done. My priorities will be to develop a long-term strategic plan to address the long-term needs and organizational goals of the court, including the development of a web-based policy and procedure manual, increased adherence with department performance measures, better utilization of existing resources and improved customer service at all levels of court operations.
Who do you think is your biggest challenger and why?
I only have one challenger in my quest to retain my current position. Aside from Mr. Rios, I would say my biggest challenger is my wife Debbie. Being that this is our first campaign, she challenges me to do more with respect to this election despite the many demands associated with taking the bench daily, managing this diverse court and attending to family matters.
What do you think sets you apart from your opponent(s)?
Experience! Justice of the Peace, Precinct 1, is a very intense, very demanding, very diverse job. I feel that I uniquely combine experience on the judicial bench, experience in both civil and criminal law, extensive court management experience and an ability to relate to people of very diverse backgrounds. I have worked in both the adult and juvenile criminal justice field for over 22 years protecting and serving the residents of Yuma County. Seventeen of those years have been spent managing court-related programs such as Drug Court, a Day Reporting Center and specialized caseloads such as sex offender management, domestic violence caseloads, intensive probation and the investigations unit. I have been a certified trainer with the Arizona Supreme Court and have experience in most all facets of court management and operations.
What would you do to achieve more transparency in government, and should government officials be in charge of managing those efforts?
I believe that government needs to be more accountable to the people it serves ... the taxpayers. This cannot be accomplished without increased transparency at all levels of government operations. Greater accountability can only be accomplished through better informed voters – this is where government transparency becomes critical. Most all operations of the Justice Court are openly available to the public. I frequently encourage the public to attend court sessions and see their tax dollars at work.
Public notices are regarded as one important way for the public to find out what is really happening in government. Newspapers currently not only print public notices but also operate a free, consolidated, online, searchable database. Some people advocate that public notices should be available only on government websites. Do you agree that the Legislature should change the current law to mandate that public notices be available only on government websites?
Being an active member of the judiciary, I'll leave the establishing of law to the legislative branch of government. However, the media often frequents Justice Court, reporting the activities of the court to the public. I believe that the media serves as an avenue to increase public awareness of court operations, to promote public trust and to increase court accountability to the taxpayers.
What do you think is the biggest challenge right now facing Yumans, and Arizonans?
Having attended the local debates, it is clear that Yumans are concerned about the economy, a lack of jobs, taxes, government spending and securing the border. I would have to say that the economy is the biggest problem impacting those in our community and state. Being a border community, most may not realize the impact the economy is having locally on the courts. The economy and the lack of jobs is having a substantial impact on both civil and criminal filings in the court.
What would you do, if elected, to help change that?
Although I can do little to improve the economy, I can impact its affect on the public. It is important that judges work tirelessly to hold offenders accountable to the court, their victims and the public. I can also seek out avenues to not only increase the efficient use of existing court resources, but to also implement court interventions and sanctions known to reduce offender recidivism. Furthermore, one avenue available to Justice Court to assist the public is to reduce the cost taxpayers incur to keep the criminal justice system operational. This is accomplished by insuring offenders pay that which is imposed by the court as to fines, fees and assessments. Each dollar paid by an offender is one less tax dollar paid by the public to keep the criminal justice system functioning. Justice Court Precinct 1 will collect close to $3 million this year alone.
What is one of your strengths? Weaknesses (something you'd like to improve upon)?
My greatest strength is my experience in the criminal justice field. My professional life has been dedicated to protecting and serving the residents of this community. Despite my 20+ years of experience, I can honestly say that I have never worked harder for the betterment of this community than since my appointment to this position. Being raised in a small community has given me the unique ability to relate to diverse people of all backgrounds and walks of life. As for an area of improvement, being that Justice Court deals with so many different aspects of law, and being that civil and criminal law is so expansive, I will seek opportunities to continue to develop my knowledge-base.
What is one thing that you want voters to know?
Justice Court is the gateway to the Superior Court. More people have contact with limited jurisdiction courts like Justice Court on a daily basis than all other courts combined. Most don't realize that all booked into custody in Yuma County, both felony and misdemeanor, begin in Justice Court. This includes murders, sex offenders, thieves, the violent, fugitives, those with mental health conditions and much more. More than 17,000 cases will be filed in Justice Court Precinct 1 this year and the court will issue an estimated 500 orders of protection. It is clear this court requires a knowledgeable, well-experienced, dedicated professional at the helm.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
Experience truly does matter!