MANSFIELD – Two people are vying to replace Phil Mayer as Richland County probate judge.
Republican Kelly Badnell and Democrat Kirsten Pscholka-Gartner are the candidates to take over for Mayer, who is retiring at the end of the year because Ohio law prevents a common pleas judge from beginning a new term after the age of 70.
Pscholka-Gartner edged out Joe Jerger in the primary election, while Badnell was unopposed.
Badnell, 54, says she has more than 25 years of relevant legal experience and is the only candidate with both public and private practice experience.
“I certainly want to help people,” Badnell said. “I’ve been in this community since 1998. I want to be able to give back to the community. With my skills, I think this is the best way to do that.”
Pscholka-Gartner, 39, points to her nine years on the bench as a magistrate in domestic relations court and says she is the only candidate with judicial experience.
A lifelong Richland County resident, Pscholka-Gartner graduated from Lexington in 1999. She spent more than six years at the county prosecutor’s office, primarily handling appeals. Pscholka-Gartner argued and won a case before the Ohio Supreme Court in 2006.
She moved over to domestic relations in 2011 and has been chief magistrate since the spring of 2018.
“It carries some administrative duties,” Pscholka-Gartner said. “I have backup duties for payroll and staff supervision.”
Badnell began her legal career as an assistant prosecutor in Hardin County in western Ohio. She moved to Mansfield and went into private practice in 1998.
“I did civil litigation and a little defense work,” Badnell said.
She joined husband David’s firm in 2010.
“I have over 25 years of civil litigation experience in many areas of law,” Badnell said. “My experience in litigation prepares me to be a judge.”
Since 2010, she said she has run a business at her husband’s firm.
“I am the person responsible for doing payroll, financial accounting, reconciliation of bank statements,” Badnell said. “I am the HR (human resources) person.”
The firm Badnell & Dick Co. has offices in Mansfield, Lima, Dayton and Canton.
Badnell is endorsed by the Richland County Republican Committee.
“My campaign is self-funded,” she said. “I think it’s very important for judges to be impartial. I want to be truly independent.”
Badnell said she will protect the rule of law and apply it “fairly and impartially.”
Both candidates say they want to bring electronic filing to probate court.
“That would give everybody access to it without coming into the court,” Badnell said.
In her role a chief magistrate in domestic relations court, Pscholka-Gartner said she has handled delicate matters that would be similar to those in probate court.
“I’ve spent the last nine years dealing with very, very sensitive family issues,” she said. “Some of those cases have been high-conflict.
“The judge’s role is to hear the cases and apply the law neutrally. I want to make the court as transparent and accessible as possible.”
She said she has personal experience dealing with probate issues through her parents’ health issues.
“I know how stressful they can be,” Pscholka-Gartner said.
She has been endorsed by Ohio AFSCME. Noting she has been a county employee for 17 years, Pscholka-Gartner said her record speaks for itself.
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