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City judge will work as justice of the peace


Eight months after winning a battle to keep her job as Havre city judge a 40-hour-a-week position, Joyce Perszyk is taking on a second full-time post Hill County justice of the peace.

The nonpartisan position became available when current Justice of the Peace Carol Chagnon announced her retirement earlier this month. Today is Chagnon's last day after 16 years on the bench. She is stepping down to spend more time with her husband, Paul, who suffered a stroke in September.

Perszyk, city judge for 4 years, will be sworn in by the Hill County Commission Wednesday morning. She'll hold the interim post until November's election.

Havre Public Schools substitute teacher Ray Bergh and retired Montana Highway Patrol officer Terry Stoppa are running for the position. Both were eligible for the interim post, but the commissioners agreed it would have been inappropriate to appoint one of them.

Monday morning, Perszyk and Hill County Attorney David Rice met with the commissioners to discuss the feasibility of both jobs being done by the same individual in the same amount of time.

"Really what you're doing," Rice said to Perszyk, "is a service to the community."

Perszyk is confident she has the time and ability to perform both tasks.

"I'm not going to guarantee we're not going to have some trouble. It's definitely a juggle. But I keep a tight ship and I'm the only one scheduling," Perszyk told the commissioners.

"It's only six months. That's what I keep telling myself," she added after the meeting.

The interlocal agreement calls for the city and county to each pay a share of Perszyk's wages, depending upon the amount of hours she devotes to each court.

Perszyk's salary as judge is about $32,000, she said. The justice of the peace earns about $400 more a year, according to County Commissioner Doug Kaercher. All extra hours Perszyk works will be paid for by the county.

"Looking at the pay, we're pretty similar," Kaercher said. "I don't see this working forever. I see this working for six months. For a short period of time to keep the service seamless, it'll work."

Perszyk, meanwhile, is only six months removed from having her job reclassified as full time.

Since she took office in 1997, a federal grant has accounted for 12 hours of her weekly income. The Encourage Arrest Policies grant, which has to be renewed every 18 months, expired in August. During the first week of September, Perszyk was notified that a part-time pay scale was in effect for her job.

After requesting the Havre City Council allocate necessary funds to finance the 12 hours a week, Perszyk went back to full time in November.

City clerk Lowell Swenson said at the time that the city had some unexpected revenue from the state a federal domestic abuse grant, along with beer, wine and liquor revenue that could be used to fund the city judge's position.

Come July, Perszyk said, she's unsure if the city will come up with the funds or if she'll once again be a part-time employee.

Either way, she'll be full time until at least November.


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