If elected as Justice of the Peace for Precinct 4, Place 1, Republican Michael Keefe said he will bring training, experience and most importantly a reputation of service in this community to the office.

“I will ensure a strict adherence to the law, procedures and guidelines of the Justice Court,” Keefe said by email as to what he will do when he is elected. “I will conduct all proceedings in a fair and impartial manner to ensure all citizens and entities with business before the court have confidence in the office.”

Keefe, 60, is currently self employed with his own insurance agency, and a resident of the Creek Place subdivision in Killeen. His opponent in the race is current Killeen City Council member Gregory Johnson.

In addition to being an honor graduate of the University of Central Texas with a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice, Keefe has over 2,400 hours of specialized training from the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement (TCOLE) and I hold a Master Peace Officer Certification from TCOLE.

“I spent 20 years at the Killeen Police Department in various positions but primarily in investigations,” he said. “I was a patrol watch commander, homicide and robbery unit commander and my last duty assignment before retiring was command of the Organized Crime Division and the Special Weapons and Tactical Team. I have first-hand experience in the often-unpleasant duties a Justice of the Peace is required to perform, such as responding to fatality accidents and homicide scenes.”

In addition to being the lead case agent on the largest drug conspiracy case ever prosecuted in Bell County, Keefe has testified in both State District Court and Federal Court.

“Since committing to campaigning for Justice of the Peace, I have availed myself to the training available through the Texas Justice Court Training Center,” he said. “I also spend several hours a week monitoring both the Place 1 and Place 2 Justice Courts to observe the cases brought before the court.”

Johnson’s campaign did not reply to questions for this article of press time.

Johnson, a Waco native, is currently serving his second term on the Killeen City Council. The U.S. Army veteran also currently serves on the Central Texas Council of Governments and the Development District of Central Texas. He has served in leadership roles with several nonprofits and trade organizations including the Killeen Planning and Zoning Commission, Killeen Housing Authority, president of the Apartment Association of Central Texas and the Texas Army National Guard where he deployed overseas to Kosovo in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.

While Keefe has stated that he has no criminal history, Johnson has spoke of his own in the past.

“I’ve made some mistakes in my past that I’m not proud of,” Johnson said in a January interview with the Daily Herald. “I’ve learned from them and used them to grow into the person I am today. As a teen I was charged with aggravated assault after defending myself from two individuals that were attacking me. Charges were later dropped, and the case was closed. Later, while homeless, I was charged and convicted for burglary of vehicle and criminal mischief. I served 90 days in county jail. These mistakes happened almost 20 years ago and I continue to pay my debt to society by mentoring young people to ensure they avoid making these same mistakes.”

Small claims

As of Sept. 1, the amount claimants in small claims action in Texas Justice Court can ask for increased from $10,000 to $20,000. Keefe shared his opinion on this change.

“The increase of jurisdiction in Justice courts will undoubtedly increase the case load but to what degree remains to be seen,” Keefe said. “There was a time when the limit increased from $5,000 to the most recent $10,000 limit and in speaking with local Justices of the Peace it did not seem to overburden their courts. In keeping with the mantra of the ‘people’s court’ it is probably a wise move by our legislature to allow citizens to represent themselves as litigants per se and save the cost of hiring attorneys to represent them in the higher courts.”

The winner in the race will replace Garland Potvin, who was appointed to the position following the resignation of Daryl Peters earlier this year. Peters was appointed by the Bell County Commissioners Court to serve the two years left in former Justice of the Peace Claudia Brown’s term after a jury trial removed Brown from her position.

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