Garfield County judgeship up for grabs; candidate profiles

PANGUITCH – Two nominees have been chosen by the Garfield County Nominating Commission to fill the vacant seat for Panguitch Justice judge that was left open when Justice Judge Martin Nay resigned in October.

The public is welcome to submit written comments about each of the candidates to Melisse Stiglich, Administrative Office of the Courts, any time between now and Dec. 12.

Panguitch Mayor Eric Houston will have 30 days to select the final candidate and make the appointment, which will then be subject to ratification by the Panguitch City Council. The Utah Judicial Council must then certify the appointment.

Alan Carl Johnson

Born and raised in Panguitch, 29-year-old Alan Johnson said he has been a dedicated servant of the Garfield County community for as long as he can remember; becoming a justice judge would be just one more opportunity to give back.

“My parents were raised here, and they were really involved with the community, too, so I guess that’s where I picked it up from,” Johnson said.

At one point, Johnson said, his grandmother was the acting city manager in Panguitch, and his mother acted as the Panguitch city recorder for nearly 20 years before passing away three years ago.

We’ve got a long history in Panguitch,” he said. “That’s another big thing – I love this city and I love the people here.”

“I feel like this is not only something I am passionate about, that I really want to do, but I also just love to give service,” Johnson said.

In his current position as an engineering draftsman with South Central Communications in Panguitch, Johnson has had ample opportunities to problem-solve and deal with conflict resolution, but he said his ternary volunteer roles with Garfield County Search and Rescue, Panguitch City Fire Department and Garfield County Ambulance – he is certified as an advanced EMT – have prepared him to handle all types of high-pressure and high-stress situations successfully.

“I think that the EMS background has really helped me with dealing with people at their worst,” he said. “I know if someone is arrested or someone is hurt, that is a kind of ‘at their worst.’ It’s kind of different, but I still would use that same judgment call about what’s best for that person (as a judge).”

A graduate of SUU with an associate degree in applied science criminal justice, Johnson had to move home before he could complete his four-year degree. He said he began to wonder if he would ever have the opportunity to use the knowledge and skills he acquired while pursuing his education, but, since then, he has remained enticed by the world of law and criminal justice.

He believes he has strong relations with the members of the community, Johnson said, and has worked hard to earn their trust and respect – something he believes will be an asset to him should he be awarded the bench – along with the ability to be fair.

“I wouldn’t be there to be a punisher,” he said. “We’re all human, and we’ve all made mistakes … I feel that if they can trust you, then maybe they can feel good about their consequences; feel good about their consequences, then maybe they’ll turn their life around.”

Timothy Byrne Smith

Timothy Smith, director of the pharmacy at Garfield Memorial Hospital, is another man up for nomination for the judgeship.

A Utah native, Smith said, he was born and raised in the Centerville area of northern Utah and eventually moved to Panguitch 18 years ago when he first began his position at the hospital.

Smith is currently a member of the Panguitch City Council and said he has held that position for approximately nine years. He said being involved in the council has given him some inside knowledge and experience on how to appropriately handle situations similar to what the new position would require.

“In City Council … a lot of times there are two opposing sides, and it can be a rather hostile environment,” Smith said. “I feel like I was able to look at both sides, keep an open mind, remain calm — even when there was a lot of emotion involved — and go through that decision-making process. It would be kind of a natural transfer for me over to the judgeship position.”

Regardless of who is chosen for the position, Smith said, having another person there to assist with the growing caseloads will be a great help to the county and city.

“The (Garfield) County court justice has been handling both caseloads for the city and the county, and he really needs some relief,” Smith said. “So, we really do need to fill that position.”

If appointed, Smith said, he would do his best and work hard to ensure fairness and equal consideration for both sides of each argument. He also said he looks forward to working with the area’s younger population.

I really feel like I could do some good, especially with the youth, in helping them to take a better path if they ever happen to come before me,” Smith said.

Overall, Smith said, his past experience and drive to help the community make him a valuable candidate for the judgeship. The position, he added, is a unique opportunity for him to continue serving a community he has come to love and embrace.

St. George News Reporter Devan Chavez contributed the section of this report on Smith.

Recap

  • What: Panguitch Justice judgeship open for public comment
  • When: Comments will be accepted through Dec. 12
  • Information: Written submissions can be sent to  Melisse Stiglich, Administrative Office of the Courts

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