Two longtime court officials face challengers

Two longtime members of the Richmond County judicial system are defending their positions Tuesday against experienced challengers.

Superior Court Judge Carlisle Overstreet, the chief judge of the judicial circuit, is banking on his 20 years of experience and development of accountability courts to give him an edge over Juvenile Court Judge Willie Saunders.

Overstreet said the distance between judges and society continues to shrink, so accountability courts are becoming important. One example is drug court, in which sentences include treatment and strict probation instead of just prison time.

“I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in the court,” Overstreet said.

His challenger, Saunders, also wants to strengthen ties between the bench and the community, particularly in crimes committed by young men. Saunders, who has been a Juvenile Court judge for six years, advocates problem-solving courts and coordinating with community leaders to keep students in school.

“Crime has always been a young man’s game,” he said.

Also on the ballot is Clerk of Court Elaine Johnson and her challenger, Hattie Holmes-Sullivan. Johnson started as a clerk in 1973 and became clerk of court in 1993. She said her experience and push to bring new technology to the clerk’s office makes her the best candidate.

“Technology is the key...” said Johnson, who is facing her first election challenge.

Holmes-Sullivan worked in the office the same time as Johnson, from 1978 through 2005, when she became an assistant to State Court Judge David Watkins.

Holmes-Sullivan said she has worked hard to build up her experience and leadership.

“You can’t just wake up one morning and say, ‘I want to be the clerk,’  ” Holmes-Sullivan said.

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