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The Los Alamos County Council selected Christine Chandler to fill the unexpired term of Probate Judge Ellen Hong during its regular meeting on Tuesday.
Chandler was one of six candidates to apply for the position. Each candidate had two minutes to highlight their credentials and their reasons for seeking the position.
Council then took an initial vote, during which Chandler, Timothy H. Langworthy and Sharon A. Marinuzzi received the highest number of votes and proceeded to questioning by the council.
Chandler stressed her desire to develop outreach materials to help citizens maneuver the probate process.
“Over 50 percent of the individuals who use the probate court are not represented by a lawyer. This means that they are entering an arena that is probably foreign to them at a time of great personal stress. They are most likely feeling uncomfortable and in some cases confused by legal jargon, forms and requirements,” Chandler said.
“One skill that I have that I think is helpful to this situation is my ability to explain legal concepts and processes to laypeople in terms they can understand.”
Several councilors noted how difficult their choice was with so many qualified candidates, including those eliminated in the first round (Philip J. Dabney, Yvonne M. Deshayes and Charles Knoop). Council Chair Geoff Rodgers had a different take.
“I originally started out saying this was going to be a very difficult choice. But it’s going to be very easy, because at this point we cannot go wrong. The three of you are excellent candidates, as are the other three that applied and I certainly thank you for your interest in this job,” Rodgers said.
Chandler received five votes in the second round, with councilors Rick Reiss and Frances Berting voting for Marinuzzi.
Chandler will serve until the term expires Dec. 31, 2014.
Council also appointed three members to the Environmental Sustainability Board. Stephen Boerigter (R) and Don Machen (D) will both be serving their second terms and Suzie Havemann will be a new member. Mark Frauenglass, Isaac T. Storey and Lee Perry also applied for the position.
Councilor Pete Sheehey urged unsuccessful applicants for that board and for the probate judge position to apply for other board vacancies, specifically mentioning the need to fill three openings on the Transportation Board.
“We appreciate your contributions to the community and your offer to serve,” Sheehey said. “There are many openings on our boards and commissions where your skills can make an important difference for our community.”
The salary for probate judge was $3,500 per year, according to county information officer Julie Habiger.