Recap of GVACC forum: Probate judge candidates

Published 8:00 am Saturday, March 2, 2024

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Probate judge candidates Paul Story and Troy Davis answered a series of questions that spoke to their relevant experience, issues facing the probate office and voting integrity during the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce forum on Thursday night.

The forum was moderated by Daniel Evans, publisher of the Valley Times-News, and the forum was held at Valley City Hall. The forum was streamed live on the VTN Facebook page. The candidates began with opening statements.

Davis is a manager at Baxter Healthcare and has worked for four years in leadership. Davis said he hopes to make positive changes in the county and make sure its citizens are treated fairly. 

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Story, the incumbent, has been the county’s probate judge for the past five years. Before that, he worked in the medical field for around 18 years. He said he always tried to keep citizens informed and make improvements in the probate office.

Both candidates were asked why they’re running and what qualities they would bring to the office. Story said he has enjoyed serving the community, both in the medical field and in local government.

“What I experienced in the medical field in mental health patients, helping them work through their issues, find resources and services that would better the outcome for them,” he said.

Davis said his motivation comes from his experience being adopted by his grandparents. 

“I also have a son now, and I’d like for him to be able to grow up in this community and know that his dad was here and was able to do some things for some kids as well,” he said.

The next question was about what the candidates will take to keep elections safe and fair. Davis said there is always room for improvement in this area.

“I feel like with the things that are going on around the nation nowadays, you gotta get a little bit more strict and try to make people bring in a valid driver’s license when they come to the polls,” he said. 

Story agreed, saying, “I’ve worked with Representative Debbie Wood and other judges throughout the state on a bill of a post-election audit.”

One bill currently in legislative session would involve “retesting a percentage of the votes in a particular precinct on a particular race to validate the machine’s integrity.” The other bill would recertify the machines.

The candidates each answered the question, “How would you handle cases involving contested wills or disputes over guardianship and conservatorship?” 

“The biggest thing is to be able to set a hearing, hear out both sides of the issue whether it be with a family member or acquaintance with the family, as well as the fact of dealing with vetting individuals for the possible use of a guardian ad litem if there’s an individual who’s incapacitated or a minor case,” Story said.

Ultimately, he said it’s important to make sure everything filed by counsel is proper to ensure that the hearing process is being handled properly and fairly.

“Being that that’s kind of where I’m coming from, I’d love to see both sides and make sure that the kids are in a good environment, make sure that the team on our side is doing the right things in order to fulfill their duties and make sure that we have valid points and that where are we trying to send the kid would be a good home for him,” Davis said. 

He added that he would make sure he and his team were doing their job properly and to the best of their ability.

The probate judge position doesn’t require a law degree. When asked about their thoughts on that, Davis joked, “Right now, I don’t feel like it should be. Because I don’t have one.”

Joking aside, Davis continued that he is willing to continue his education in any way that he might be required to in the future.

Story said when a case where there’s a question of equitable jurisdiction, that can be handled in other courts. But he said the probate office is at its core “ultimately a public service.” 

“We handle issues with families that have gone through difficult situations,” Story said. “…Showing empathy and compassion and taking the time to hear out the situation, that doesn’t require a law degree.”

Story said that mental health is the biggest issue facing counties in probate.

“Post-COVID, it’s so much worse due to the furloughs, loss of jobs, loss of family members, there have been so many individuals who have suffered. Even past their general mental health issues, it’s exacerbated,” Story said.

Though he also said mental health and drug abuse are an issue, Davis said he would evaluate that if elected. 

“I need to get in the office and evaluate from there,” he said. “ … It’s hard to answer from the outside looking in.”

Lastly, the candidates gave their closing remarks.

“I have always tried to be accessible to our citizens,” Story said. “I always try to be transparent in the office, posting to social media keeping up with what’s going on at the state level as well and certainly have done as well as I can work to provide me when I first came into office.”

“I’m just a local boy that would like to get into the office and help him make our county better,” Davis said. “… If I’m blessed with the opportunity to get in the office, I guarantee that I’ll be there today. And I would bring hard work into our county, and I want you to hold me accountable as well.”