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Businessman challenging chief magistrate

A local businessman and the incumbent Liberty County chief magistrate are facing off for the Democratic nominations for that seat.

Voters will decide between them May 24 and the winner will likely take office early next year.

Melinda Anderson
Anderson is the incumbent, being first elected to chief magistrate in 1989. Before being elected Anderson was appointed as a justice of the peace.

“At that time every town had an elected and an appointed justice of the peace,” she said, adding she was appointed by her peers.

In 1983, the Constitution of Georgia provided for a uniform Magistrate Court System throughout the state which replaced the justices of the peace and small claims courts.

“I’ve taken over a thousand hours of continuing education at the University of Georgia, and I feel that things are running well. And I have good help and we know what we are doing and we want to do things right,” Anderson said. “It’s an opportunity for me, as a person, to continue to serve in a capacity that I feel like I can and be assured that anyone coming into that court for any reason … that across the board everyone will be treated the same way … with fairness…

“I especially like to know as much as I can know about every situation so that we can make the best possible decision.”

Anderson said she has seen many things and has heard many issues in civil court.

Magistrate court works like state or superior court, handling civil claims such as garnishments, foreclosures on personal property, landlord/tenant cases, as well as county ordinance violations, arrest warrants, bond hearings and other matters.

“We do some mediation…and over the years you get to the point that you realize there are sometimes when you have to mediate a situation with people who don’t really have a legal problem per say but a personal issue,” Anderson said.

“There is nothing that takes the place of that experience,” Anderson said. “And as long as my health is good and I feel rewarded and fulfilled in the job … I feel I am doing a service for the people of Liberty County as well as making sure the laws are implemented, then I want to continue to do that.”

She said she has enjoyed and learned a lot from working with local law enforcement and thinks her business and banking background is why her peers recommended her nearly three decades ago.

Anderson said the Magistrate System has a state council.

“I represented the First Judicial District of Georgia for 10 plus years and I am a past state president,” she said, noting she recently received the group’s Lifetime Achievement Award. She is also a mentor for new incoming judges.

Kenneth Wells

Wells is a real estate agent and a federal contractor. He owns Hyperion Renewable Energy and said he’s been self-employed since he graduated college. He said he earned a degree in finance and investments from Georgia Southern.
The Liberty County native said his work negotiating government contracts, his knowledge of building and permitting laws and his business skills make him ready to take on the task of being the next chief magistrate.

“I want to give back to the community and make a difference,” he said. “I represent all the people.”

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