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Municipal judge candidates square off at forum

By STEVEN F. HUSZAI Staff Writer Published: April 29, 2017 5:00 AM
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MILLERSBURG -- Their visions for the Holmes County Municipal Court and years of experience were on display Thursday night, April 20, during a forum at United Methodist Church of Millersburg.

Andrew Hyde and Sam Steimel are both vying for the judge position following the death of Judge Jane Irving and will appear on the May 2 Republican primary ballot. The event was moderated by Diane McCartney.

Questions posed by audience members ranged from potential conflicts of interest to philosophies on streamlining the office and even how we got to this point.

Hyde, who was selected by Gov. John Kasich to serve on the bench out of three candidates submitted by the Holmes County Republican Party, said he is proud of the reputation he has cultivated over his 20-plus years as a lawyer operating in multiple counties.

"I've been in Holmes County 24 years. I know that doesn't make me a local yet," Hyde joked. But he added he has developed a reputation as the guy whom judges called upon to represent "the worst of the worst." Irving even named him an acting judge in her court.

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Hyde also noted that he gravitated toward trial work and especially enjoyed the "battle aspect" of engaging fellow attorneys.

Steimel, meanwhile, has spent more than 30 years operating first the family business and then his own law practice.

"My practice has been very broad and very wide," Steimel said. "And that's been my choice."

He initially said focusing too heavily on trial work can give an attorney "tunnel vision."

"Have I tried hundreds and thousands of cases, no," Steimel said. "As a judge, you've got to have a 180 view."

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Steimel took the hardest questions when he was asked why he decided to run -- after he initially told Hyde he wouldn't "be a headache" -- and then was asked how voters could trust him after he "broke his word."

"It was a tough decision. Absolutely a tough one," Steimel said. But he explained that after several weeks of constant encouragement from the people of Holmes County asking him to run, he decided to throw his hat in the ring.

"I believe you folks have have supported me and urged me on and for that reason I filed and I'm here today," he said. "The affirmation of others sometimes becomes the affirmation of yourself."

Later, when asked the follow-up question of how voters could trust him, Steimel responded "I felt I was justified ... we're all going to make mistakes." But his faith and support from friends and family will help him, he added.

Both candidates touched on ways they would wish to modernize the court, search for efficiencies and save money in the budget.

And the two were asked about how they can seek to avoid conflicts of interest, especially of Steimel whose wife is clerk of courts.

Hyde said he subscribed to advice he received from retired judge Tom White in that "you have to remove yourself from the community" and be isolated. He said although attorneys can grab drinks together after work, when an attorney becomes a judge, cultivating those relationships can't take place.

Steimel likewise said, "I think isolation restricts your view of what goes on." He encouraged people to look at Judge Robert Rinfret, who is engaged in local sports and school events.

"I'll admit I'm a people person," Steimel said, adding he worked for decades in the same building with his wife as they both operated their separate businesses.

"Judges tend to get less visibility than other officials, but, once elected, they tend to hold their positions for a long time, and the decisions they make affect families, children, businesses, every aspect of society," party Chair Rob Hovis said previously.

A full video recording of the event is available on YouTube.

Reporter Steven F. Huszai can be reached at 330-287-1645 or shuszai@the-daily-record.com. He is @GeneralSmithie on Twitter.


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