The Hill County Commission Friday will vote on requesting District Judge David Rice to appoint the winner of the county justice of the peace election to the position Tuesday.
Justice Terry Stoppa resigned effective Oct. 31, two days before Audrey Barger won the election to take over the position at the start of next year.
Hill County Commission Chair Mike Wendland said Wednesday the commission will request Barger be appointed to fill the remainder of Stoppa's term.
Barger, Hill County deputy clerk of court, said this morning she knew that, if elected and appointed, she would have to make a quick change to the judge's position, so she has been preparing for some time. She has spent more than a month cross- training people in the clerk of court’s office and training her possible replacement, as well as preparing herself to take over the duties in justice court.
She added that she is excited and greatly appreciates the support she received in her race for the position.
“I will go in and do the job for them,” she said.
Barger defeated Cathy Chinske Huston in the general election.
Stoppa said this morning that the qualifications of both Barger and Huston helped in his decision to retire. Either candidate would have done a fine job, he said, and the large number of votes both candidates received shows the county residents also has confidence in them, he added.
Barger received 2,780 votes in the election, while Huston received 2,156.
Stoppa said he decided it simply was time for him to retire, after 40 years in the justice system.
“It’s just time to move on and enjoy life a little bit,” he said.
He served as Liberty County sheriff for five-and-a-half years before resigning that position to join the Montana Highway Patrol, which Stoppa said had been a lifelong ambition of his.
After serving 26-and-a-half years on the patrol, he was elected Hill County justice of the peace in 2002.
Barger said the changeover might create some problems at first. She is required to attend new judges training, which starts Saturday and Sunday in Missoula, then has a second section next week.
Barger said she will request a training waiver from the state Supreme Court which would allow her to start working before she attends the training, but the week she must spend in Missoula also will set things back.
She said her top priority will be in interviewing and hiring a new clerk for the justice court, to take the place of Lillian Bachmeier, who also retired Oct. 31.
“(Lillian) is a valuable resource, and she’s gone but we’re going to work with it,” Barger said.
Bachmeier, who started working for the county July 1, 1981, in the treasurer’s office, had worked in justice court since November 1990.
Wendland said the county will work with Havre City Judge Margaret Hencz and Blaine County Justice of the Peace Perry Miller to keep the Hill County Justice Court running until Barger can fully assume the duties.
Barger said she regrets that the court will be limited until she returns from training Nov. 22, but that it is a requirement of state law that she receive the training.
“There’s no way around it,” she said.
Hill County Clerk of Court Dena Tippets will appoint Barger’s replacement as deputy clerk of court.