HUNTINGTON — Four candidates have their hat in the ring for the Cabell County Division 4 magistrate seat, a countywide, nonpartisan race.
Sarah Spurlock, 47; Carl Eastham, 59; Tina Brooks, 57; and Kim Wolfe, 72, each said they bring unique perspectives to the table from their various backgrounds of public service.
Spurlock has experience as both a Cabell County magistrate clerk deputy and circuit clerk deputy and is currently working as a nurse.
After running in 2016 for the magistrate position against an incumbent, Spurlock said she hopes to be elected in 2020 because she has the experience to “hit the ground running.”
“I know I possess the knowledge and expertise that is an asset to the position of magistrate,” she said. “I found many magistrates were coming to me for information. They would come to me, and eventually I thought, ‘I’m going to run.’”
Spurlock said while she has goals to keep the citizens of Cabell County protected, as magistrate she would have to follow guidelines from the Supreme Court, which can sometimes be limiting.
“I could say I’d like to implement another location for court or for arraignments — that sounds really good, but that’s not something that a magistrate can impose. We can ask the Supreme Court when they come down, but I can’t say that I’m going to get that imposed,” she said. “One thing I do know from years in magistrate court is that it becomes very hectic on the public to come down and have hearings. Everybody gets scheduled at the same time, and that would be something that I would like to make more efficient.”
Spurlock said developing a system to make the process run just a little smoother for the public is something she would focus on, should she be elected for the four-year term.
“I would just like to be that team player that gets in there and helps this process move more smoothly,” she said. “I want to do the best job I can, 100%.”
For Eastham, who spent 30 years with the Huntington Fire Department, four years as fire chief, two years with the West Virginia Attorney General’s Office as a consumer advocate and is currently a West Virginia fire commissioner, bringing more transparency to the court system is something he’d like to see emphasized.
As a lifelong resident of Cabell County, he said he has participated in public service throughout his entire career, giving him a scope of experience that he hopes to continue to build upon as magistrate.
“We have a group of good magistrates that are there, and I just hope to continue the tradition, but I also want to stay within the rules of law and give larger bonds to those who deserve a larger bond,” Eastham said. “I want to do that equitably with people so that everyone is getting a fair treatment.”
Eastham said he has a firm grasp on how the rules of laws work and interaction from his background as a fire commissioner, overseeing the deputy fire marshals through a group of board members, as well as working with investigations and complaints in the Attorney General’s Office.
Eastham said his biggest goal as magistrate would be bringing equity to the attention of the county.
“My biggest goal is to work with the other magistrates and bring to the forefront the need to make sure we treat everybody fair and equal,” he said. “And not having an incumbent in my race, it’s given me the opportunity to run.”
Brooks said she would also like to tackle the issues of equity and bring diversity to the forefront of the court system, should she be elected.
Brooks has spent her life serving others through the foster care system, working with teenagers and young adults, as well as serving on Huntington City Council for nearly three years before resigning to focus on her health.
Brooks said her background making a difference in her community is something new she could bring to the magistrate position.
“I feel like working in the foster care system for as many years as I did and making such a difference in several of these troubled teens and young adults like that is definitely something that I can bring to magistrate,” she said.
Brooks also said her experience serving on City Council helped her build relationships with law enforcement officers in the region.
“I was also out in our community a whole lot where I was seeing these problems that our community and our county were facing that were affecting our people,” she said. “So, when you’re seeing this, of course you want to be part of trying to be a solution.”
Brooks said she hopes to implement a more diverse court system in order to make fair decisions for the public, including juries that better represent the population, as well as officials with various backgrounds.
“We should have a system that is diversified,” Brooks said.
Brooks said she has other goals if she were to be elected, such as finding a solution to overcrowding in jails, although she would have to work under the guidelines of the Supreme Court, as well.
Wolfe’s ideals as Cabell County magistrate would include keeping the streets safe and streamlining the system.
Wolfe spent 26 years at the Huntington Police Department, eight years as Cabell County sheriff, four years as mayor of Huntington, and has also worked several other law enforcement jobs such as deputy chief of operations at the West Virginia Regional Jail Authority and currently as a bailiff at Kenova City Court.
“If experience counts, which I think it does, I have the most background for the position,” Wolfe said. “I’ve acquired connections and friendships through the years within the criminal justice system.”
Wolfe said during his tenure as mayor, his staff hired 24 additional police officers and the city had a drastic reduction in crime — and his priorities remain the same today.
“My priorities are obviously keeping the streets safe, and you have to get the criminals off the street,” he said.
Wolfe also said there needs to be a better system to get minor offenders out from behind bars and back into society for the good of the public and the jails, which can become overcrowded quickly.
“There needs to be a better streamline of getting those people who are nonviolent, misdemeanors, out,” he said. “So, I think a priority is to look at a system that would get the people off the street that need to be incarcerated and get the others back to being productive members of society.”