Elizabethton City Council set to pick interim city judge

John Thompson • Feb 11, 2020 at 9:15 PM

ELIZABETHTON — One of the decisions the Elizabethton City Council will have to make during its next monthly meeting on Thursday night is to pick an interim municipal judge to serve until a new one can be elected by the people in the November general election.

The action is required because of the recent death of Judge T.J. Little.

Unlike some of the personnel decisions the council members have to make, this one does not require them to do a lot of research on the character of the candidates. All five are very well known in the community. All have practiced law in the region, if not in the city and county. Many also have several generations of family who lived in the community. Some have also served as judges in the county and served as the city’s legal counsel.

If the council members were not already familiar enough with the candidates, they met in a workshop session last month to go over the resumes and discuss the candidates.

The five are Mark S. Dugger, Jason L. Holly, J. Collins Landstreet II, Teresa Murray Smith, and John W. Walton. All five met the two basic requirements for the job, which is holding a law degree and being a resident of the city. Their background information includes:

• Dugger is a third-generation attorney in Elizabethton, HIs grandfather was George Dugger Sr. and his father was George Dugger Jr. He received his law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1983 and joined the Dugger and Cole law firm.

• Holly was formerly employed by the law firm of Herndon, Coleman, Brading & McKee. He obtained his law degree from Cumberland School of Law in Birmingham, Alabama. Holly is also well known in the community as the public address announcer for Elizabethton High School varsity sports. His sons are members of the state championship football team.

• Landstreet received his law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1986 and has practiced law in Elizabethton since 1989.

• Smith is the daughter of a former assistant chief of the Elizabethton Police Department. She obtained her law degree from the University of Tennessee in 1977. She served as assistant district attorney general in the First Judicial District and the Second Judicial District for most of her career.

• Walton received his law degree from Memphis State University in 1975. He served as a captain in the Army during the Vietnam War. After his service, he joined the Elizabethton law firm of Laws and Walton. He served as city attorney for the city of Elizabethton from 1982 to 1998. He was then elected judge of the Carter County General Sessions Court in 1998 and served until his retirement in 2014.

The job is only a part-time position and currently pays $15,500. The city court usually meets about four times a month.

The person selected by the council will immediately assume the office.

In discussing the candidates, most of the council members said during the workshop that it would be a difficult decision.

“It’s a small town and we know them,” Councilman Wes Frazier said.

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