By Tim Eberly
Thirty years ago, Carol Chagnon started her career in the Hill County Courthouse as a secretary and clerk in the Juvenile Probation Department.
Now in her 16th year as the Hill County justice of the peace, Chagnon decided this weekend not to file for the June 4 primary election.
"It's one of the toughest decisions I've ever made in my life harder than any decision I've made on the bench," Chagnon said today. "I've spent half my lifetime in this courthouse."
The desire to spend more time with her family was the impetus behind her decision.
"I discussed it with my family and they're elated that I'm not going to file," she said. "They want me home."
County Attorney David Rice has worked closely with Chagnon since 1973, when he started work as a deputy county attorney and she was in juvenile probation.
"I've enjoyed my time with her," Rice said today. "I've known her as long as I've been here. She developed into a competent judge. We've had a good working relationship."
Her husband, Paul, suffered a stroke in September. "He really needs me to be home to take care of him," Chagnon said. "That was a big part of the decision."
Chagnon also said she wanted to give other candidates the opportunity to fill the position.
"I think I owe that to the public," she said. "It's just time."
Chagnon won four elections during her tenure on the bench, including two in which she ran unopposed for the nonpartisan position.
Most of all, she will miss "being involved in the activity that goes on with law enforcement and the judicial process in the community," she said.
Two candidates have filed for the position retired Montana Highway Patrol officer Terry Stoppa, 56, and Ramon "Ray" Bergh, a substitute teacher at Havre Middle School and Havre High School. Bergh spent the bulk of his career as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for the state of Montana.