Sheila Huddleston, Magistrate Court judge, District 2 (non-partisan)

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QUESTION: You are asking to be hired (or re-hired) by the voters of this county. Give five reasons why they should vote for you and not your opponent.

Unfortunately, my computer technology is so good that it sent the request from The Citizen to my spam folder, hence the late reply. It is my hope that your decision to vote for me will be crystal clear after reading my reasons for you to hire me for this position.

After scanning my opponent’s responses to these questions, you would think that I was not capable of tying my own shoes! To give you some background on me, I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and moved to Tampa, Florida when my dad took a job and transferred our family to Tampa. I later moved to Fayette County where I raised my son. I attended law school later in life due to being a single mom. As a Huddleston, my roots run deep with this county. And in case you did not know, all of us Huddlestons are related! If you want more of my family background, please feel free to contact me. I will happily share my family history with you.

I am married to Michael Thompson, who is an amazing man. Between us we have two children: Jordan, who lives with his wife Carla in Washington, and Tristin, who is engaged to Nathan, and will hopefully be married in September. I am currently the president and past treasurer and secretary of the Fayette County Bar Association and the past chairwoman for the Fayette County Ethics Board. I am also a member of Peachtree City Christian Church.

Five Reasons to Vote for Sheila Huddleston:

• Experience:

I started working in the legal field when I was 18 years old. I started as a receptionist and worked my way up to licensed attorney and have been practicing for 10 years. I have over 40 years of experience in the legal field and am well-versed in how the law works. I have handled all aspects of a law firm, which makes me a well-rounded individual with an abundance of practicing legal knowledge, as well as how to run an office.

In my private practice I have handled cases involving real estate, landlord/tenant, divorce, child custody/support, business/corporate, and misdemeanor criminal. I’ve successfully tackled complex cases and those that were straightforward cases. I most certainly have the requisite skills and temperament required to handle the position of a Magistrate Judge, honorably and competently, for Fayette County.

I chose to go to law school later in life when my son was older. As a single mom, I put myself through law school while raising my son. I also worked to pay the bills while in law school. I am tough. You have to be when you work full time, go to school full time, all while raising a child. We all take different paths in our lives. I am proud of my journey, my successes, and the goals I have achieved due to my tenacity, hard work, and laser focus.

Unlike my opponent, I am a sole practitioner, owning my own law firm. Recently, on top of the legal work I’m involved with daily, I have implemented procedures in my office in an effort to combat Covid-19. I am solely responsible for sanitizing my office after each client leaves in an effort to maintain a safe environment for all those needing to address their legal obligations.

Oddly, my opponent states that a new judge would be “hopelessly lost” in the multitude of detailed requirements. Perhaps that’s how she felt when she began the position, when she did not have prior experience of working as a magistrate judge. We all have to start somewhere. But I recognize that and am confident of my skills and legal knowledge and know that I will start on day one with integrity, compassion, fairness, and legal aptitude. Life lessons and education have prepared me for the role as a Magistrate Judge.

“Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.” Benjamin Franklin

• Dedication & Commitment:

My clients know that when I take them on as a client, they become part of my “family.” Fayette County will be no different. Just a bigger family to take care of and to make sure that it stays safe and secure.

Yes, I do want to help people. This is not a bad thing as some would want you to believe. I have compassion and kindness toward my fellow man; however, I do NOT believe in breaking the law and criminals will be dealt with in a manner befitting the crime. Crime will not be tolerated. But there is no reason not to treat people with respect and kindness.

I believe in God and serving our country. I will work hard for you, Fayette County.

• Performance:

I will carry out the duties as a Magistrate fairly, impartially, and diligently. I am dedicated to justice being served. I am committed to Fayette and upholding the laws that keep our community safe and strong.

I am fiscally responsible. I will make sure that no funds are spent needlessly in the Magistrate Court. When I qualified to run for magistrate, I signed an affidavit stating that I would spend no more than $2,500 on my campaign, which is a gracious plenty! To date, I have spent $1,646. I plan on donating the balance of the $2,500.00 to charity after voting day. My opponent has not been quite so thrifty in her campaign – it appears her objective is to “win at any cost.”

I am ethical. My goal is to provide a fair, open and unbiased court. I want each citizen to feel comfortable talking with me about the civil or legal matters heard in court. I will use my knowledge and experience to provide a lawful and impartial judgment for each matter presented to me and to expeditiously handle the case.

I am respectful. As we all know, when a person of color walks into a court room, they are already up against the wall. It is my belief that each and every person should be treated with respect, no matter what their station in life. A judge, somewhat akin to a parent, must deliver justice in a fair, respectful manner. Every voice deserves to be heard.

I will listen. I don’t know how many times I have heard from victims that they did not feel like they were heard. Rest assured; I will listen to all parties involved so that they will have their day in court.

• Accessibility:

I will make myself available to you, as citizens of Fayette County. As I previously stated, I have my own firm; however, the position of a Magistrate Judge is a part-time position. The position is divided up between four (4) judges who share a full-time role.

Don’t be fooled by political candidates who want you to think otherwise. Peachtree City and Fayetteville’s municipal judges both have a full-time practice in addition to their municipal court positions. Additionally, Fayette’s Chief Magistrate also has a full-time practice in addition to the Chief Magistrate position. Does my opponent believe these judges are not competent to handle a practice as well as a part-time position or was that just a special comment for me?

By the way, I understand the role of a magistrate judge means you must make yourself available to sign warrants. I already get up at 4:30 a.m. to work out so it will be no big deal to get an early morning call!

• Working with Others:

I plan on establishing on-going communications with law enforcement, as well as other departments in the court. In my practice, I have worked with several local police departments and I know the troubles that they have experienced. I will be there to do what needs to be done. Maintaining a positive working relationship with all other courts and officials is important and beneficial to the county.

I will be tough on crime. I will work with the local law enforcement agencies to make sure that justice is served, and I will be an asset to the citizens of Fayette County.

QUESTION: How are you different from your opponent(s) in your philosophy and your approach to this elected office?

I have only met my opponent, in passing, on a few separate occasions; however, from reading her campaign materials and the “knowledge” that she has about my personal life, career goals and aspirations, you would think that we had known each other for quite some time. To clarify, she has never contacted me.

I must “thank” my opponent for suggesting that I should seek a position with victim advocacy, DUI Court, or drug court. As I very much appreciate her acknowledgment of my skills in these fields, I also must say that my skill set for magistrate is because I do CARE. I care about our county; I care about our system of justice; I care about our people; and most importantly, I care about right versus wrong. As a magistrate judge I will honor these beliefs and impose justice as justice should be imposed. And if that means working all hours, including 24/7, then I am there. Again, I am here for the citizens of Fayette County.

Having my own firm allows me to set my own schedule. I also have a hard-working, outstanding paralegal (Kelly) that I could never live without. She makes everything run smoothly and is a joy to work with. Additionally, I have back-up attorneys to fill in for me when I am in court. With the freedom to set my own schedule, it allows me the flexibility to meet with law enforcement as necessary, and to fulfill the requirements that go along with the position of magistrate. I look forward to building a great relationship with law enforcement. Finally, with adult grown children, I am able to make myself available at any time.

I ask each of you for your support and prayers as I embark on this journey to serve the citizens of Fayette County. My door is always open. You can contact me at sheila@huddlestonlegal.com or call my law office 770-692-2600.

Thank you for your vote for Sheila Huddleston for Magistrate Judge.

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