FORREST COUNTY, MS (WDAM) - Judge Bob Helfrich will face an opponent next Tuesday in the 12th district circuit court judge race for the first time since he took office in 2003.
Helfrich is running against general practice attorney Chad Shook, who has previously served as staff counsel to the Mississippi Court of Appeals.
Since being elected to the circuit court seat, Helfrich has implemented a drug court and veterans treatment court.
"It's very rewarding to see the programs implemented, but it's even more rewarding to see the transformation in these individuals in trying to slow down or stop the revolving door of the criminal justice system," said Helfrich.
Shook said he supports that program and wants to expand it, if elected, specifically by tracking the participants past drug court graduation.
"Maybe five to seven to ten years out, and I would like to work on trying to be able to collect some data to determine the long term success of the drug court program," explained Shook.
Shook moved to the area around the time Helfrich took the seat. Helfrich has been in Hattiesburg since 1987 and has worked as a public defender and prosecutor before his current role. That time of service is why he's running under the slogan "Firm, fair, experienced."
However, those 11 years are another reason Shook is running for the seat.
"I believe it's time for a change for circuit court judge in Forrest and Perry County," said Shook, whose campaign slogan is "Justice, integrity, hard work."
He also said a focus would be civil cases, which he said need to be processed more quickly after a trending increase in time on the docket.
"Current statistics show that our civil docket that between 2003 and 2013, the time that a case remains on the civil docket increased by one year," he said.
Judge Helfrich said he has enjoyed seeing his ideas come to fruition over the past several year, and the impact has been two-fold.
"I get more out of the drug court and these programs than the individuals do," he said. "It's the most rewarding thing I've ever done, and I'm not ready to leave them. I'm not ready to go home. I think we've got more to do."
The 12th district is one of three to be selected for an evidence-based criminal justice reform system, which will begin in January.
The circuit court judge election is Tuesday, November 4.