To the editor:
I am concerned that the public may not be aware of certain issues related to the upcoming election of a common pleas judge taking place here in Mifflin County. Judges are elected for a 10-year term of office and at the end of that 10 years the judge may seek retention, which means that the judge may run again without having to compete with an opposing candidate. The question before the electorate is then not a choice between two candidates, but simply shall the sitting judge be allowed to continue for another 10-year term.
In many counties, judges seeking retention have been easily re-elected, but no so in Mifflin County. In the past, Francis Searer sought retention and was defeated. Possibly, that is because the citizens of Mifflin County are rightly concerned about the benefits of term limitations.
Although there are certainly benefits that come with experience, term limitations remind the elected official that he or she has a duty to the public, and prevents the incumbent from using the influence of the office to broaden a personal power base, promote personal agendas, and focus on keeping the job, rather than doing the job.
Most people seem to favor term limitations as a way of keeping the behavior of elected officials in line with the interests of the public, and judges are not different from other officials. Twenty years in office can cause any official to become indifferent to the wishes of the constituents.
Judge Tim Searer has held the office of common please judge for 20 years and did not seek retention even though he has decided to run for re-election. Perhaps that is because the citizens of Mifflin County have not supported retention in the past and have voted to bring in a new candidate. Limiting a term of office is not necessarily a vote of no confidence in the incumbent, but often only a desire for a fresh approach. Perhaps it is time to pass the reins to another candidate who is experienced and well qualified, and can bring a new perspective to the office, but who does not intend to remain longer than a 10-year term. David Barron has many years of experience as an attorney in the Mifflin County legal system, including his current position as assistant district attorney. He would make an excellent judge of common pleas.
J. Stuart Miller