New magistrates face record challenge

Magistrate Jason Lake supervises as private contractor Chester Elam clears the side roads in District 4.
Magistrate Jason Lake supervises as private contractor Chester Elam clears the side roads in District 4.

New magistrates learn their jobs the hard way

By Bobbie Poynter


Try as they might, the city, county and state road crews simply could not keep up with the demands for their services during last week’s snowstorm.

They needed all the help they could get.

Days later people could not pull out onto a hilly or curvy road because the roads were still too slick with ice and/or snow.

Suddenly, a backhoe comes along and pushes snow off the hill in front of the house. There’s nothing on his equipment that says he’s a state, county or city employee.

That’s because the county’s newest magistrates, District 4 Magistrate Jason Lake or District 2 Magistrate Stacey Roark, got permission from the county judge executive to hire some help. Together with their contractors, the magistrates were out from daylight to dusk taking care of some of the side roads the regular road crews simply hadn’t been able to get to during last week’s debilitating snowfall.

“I know my district,” said Magistrate Lake. “I wanted to get all the county roads I could get. I told him (contractor Chester Elam) which area we needed to clear and we took off. I just want what’s best for my district, and it bothered me that we couldn’t get to everyone’s road in one day.”

Jim Mills has worked for both the county and city road departments for more than 25 years and was impressed by the initiative taken by the new magistrate.

“Jason has done such a good job, especially for a young magistrate,” said Mills. “I think he has surprised a lot of people. I know one thing, He really got a good dose of what this job is.  He’s only been in office six or seven weeks, and in that time we’ve seen more snow than we have in years.”

Little did Lake know that his progress across the county was being hailed on the Internet.

That is, until he found the following post left on his Facebook page by Jennifer Miller-Gray.

“Thank you for scraping our road. (Helton Road/ Bob Miller Rd.) I greatly appreciate it. I have been stuck at work since Monday, and if you hadn’t cleaned it, I wouldn’t have been able to make it home to my mom and my son! Every little thing you do, does make a difference!”

Magistrate Roark received lots of calls from people all over his district who were either stranded, out of water, or even out of food. With help from newly-elected District 2 Constable Reed Murphy, Roark spent hours digging people out or delivering supplies.

“At that time the road department was already doing the heavy scraping,” said Roark. “I was available to go out and do personal calls. So that’s what I did.”

Roark recalls a lady in the Moore’s Creek area who called the judge executive’s office because she was having an asthma attack and needed to get to the doctor. When Magistrate Roark learned of her plight, he drove out to her house and shoveled her driveway so she could get out.

Later, after returning from the doctor, she called Roark to thank him personally for helping her get out.

“I think this is why we were elected,” said Roark. “People hired us to take care of them, and that’s what we’re going to do.”