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Four in running for newest Sessions Court judgeship in Washington County

March 23rd, 2014 9:52 pm by Becky Campbell

Four in running for newest Sessions Court judgeship in Washington County

This year, incumbent Sessions Court Judge Don Arnold, top left, will be challenged by Republicans Russell Kloosterman, top right, and Will Monk, bottom left, and independent candidate Stephanie Sherwood.

Three local attorneys and the incumbent sitting judge are running for a Washington County Sessions Court judgeship created last year by the County Commission.

Three of the candidates will appear on the ballot in the May Republican primary. They are Don Arnold, who was appointed last year by the commission after that body created the position, and challengers Russell Kloosterman and Will Monk.

The fourth candidate is Stephanie Sherwood, who is running as an independent and will be on the August general election ballot.

Arnold announced last week he would seek a full term as judge.

“I hope to be elected to continue my work with the new Drug Court offering hope for a fresh start to non-violent offenders with addiction problems,” Arnold said in a news release. He and the other two Sessions judges — James Nidiffer and Robert Lincoln, both unopposed in their races — created the Drug Court to address a growing problem in the county, they said.

Arnold’s campaign slogan, “Experience That Can Do Justice,” represents what he says is his ability to provide firm and fair justice in the courtroom.

In addition to serving the last 15 months as judge, Arnold has previously worked as an assistant district attorney, served as a special justice on the Tennessee Supreme Court and was appointed by the Supreme Court to help advise on the adoption of new rules for civil and criminal procedure. Outside the legal profession, Arnold has served as the mayor of Johnson City and in the Tennessee Senate.

He held a campaign kickoff event earlier this year.

Arnold and his wife, Linda, have three children and six grandchildren.

Russell Kloosterman will officially kick off his campaign Saturday at Living Word Lutheran Church in Gray. He is in private practice in Johnson City.

“I am running because I have a passion to help and serve the children and their families of Washington County,” Kloosterman said. “I have served close to 1,000 children and their families in our community.”

Kloosterman said his goals, if elected, are to provide “prompt and just resolution” to all legal issues, and he said the public needs to have confidence in its judges.

“The public can trust me in that role because I have proven myself a strong advocate for working families, their children, the labor force, teachers and local businessmen,” Kloosterman said.

Outside the courtroom, Kloosterman coaches youth baseball and soccer, volunteers as Scout leader for Boy Scouts of America and serves on a specialized Foster Care Review Board for the Department of Children’s Services.

Kloosterman lives in Johnson City with his wife, Mary Beth Kloosterman, and their children, Erica, Grant, Henry and Helena.

Will Monk, currently an assistant district attorney general in Jonesborough, will also appear on the Republican ticket in the May primary.

Monk said he believes a judge should adhere to constitutional protections and will strive to “ensure that all procedural and substantive rights are provided for on a consistent and unbiased basis, regardless of the issues in a case or who the parties may be.”

Monk has been with the DA’s office 10 years and prosecuted criminal and juvenile cases.

“Through my experience as prosecutor in the criminal, juvenile and child support arenas, I have come to believe that numerous factors must be evaluated in each and every case. An emphasis on personal responsibility and victim rights, tempered by family restabilization in domestic and civil matters as well as rehabilitative efforts for the criminally convicted, are all necessary in the just resolution of the vast majority of cases,” he said.

Monk lives in Jonesborough with his wife. Their daughter attends East Tennessee State University.

The winner of the May primary will face off with independent candidate Stephanie Sherwood. As the only female in the field, Sherwood said she will bring a fresh approach to the bench like she has as the associate municipal judge in Johnson City.

“Our county deserves judges who are competent, committed and fair,” Sherwood said. “The responsibility is a serious one. As your Sessions Court judge, I will treat every defendant and litigant with humanity and put the law first in my decision-making. In my role as Sessions Court judge in juvenile matters, I will never waiver in my determination to protect and fairly adjudicate the most vulnerable in our community.”

Sherwood, who previously had her own practice and worked as the quality compliance manager at East Tennessee State University’s Quillen College of Medicine, is currently concentrating on her campaign.

“The timing is really right for me. I feel like I can bring a fresh perspective. I think my personality, my demeanor, my experience is perfect for Sessions Court,” Sherwood said. “I think my integrity and my reputation would make me an excellent judge.”

If elected, Sherwood would become the first female Sessions Court judge in Washington County and the entire First Judicial District.

“I think it comes down to competence, which I have certainly demonstrated, and it comes down to fairness and vigor and respecting the law.”

Sherwood plans to officially kick off her campaign in May.

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