BY ART BUKOWSKI
BEULAH — Two attorneys with long ties to Benzie County hope to be the next probate judge there.
John B. Daugherty and John Mead will square off for the post on Tuesday. Daugherty is Benzie's current prosecutor, and Mead is both a district court magistrate and a circuit court referee in Benzie and Manistee counties.
The winner will replace Nancy Kida, who retires this year after 18 years on the bench. Kida handled Benzie's probate and district judge duties, and her replacement will do the same.
Mead — who in the 1990s spent time as a Benzie sheriff's deputy and undersheriff under Vance Bates — believes his experience as a magistrate and referee makes him the best man for the job.
"Quite frankly, the referee position has become a training ground for potential judges. You're dealing with complicated factual issues, complicated legal issues, evidentiary issues," he said. "You have to be able to listen to both sides ... as a fair and impartial third party."
Daugherty was a Beulah-based private practice attorney for more than a decade before he won election as prosecutor in 2008. He said his time as prosecutor gave him more experience than his opponent in dealing with significant cases.
"Some of the most serious cases we get in the entire county come through the district and circuit court," he said. "I think it's important that someone has been there and handled those types of cases."
Mead believes he's better prepared because he makes decisions as a referee and magistrate, though Daugherty said his job isn't void of important decisions.
"Day to day, as a prosecutor and as an attorney, you have some tough decisions," he said.
Mead touts endorsements from several retired and current judges and court officials, including Kida, retired District Judge Brent Danielson and current Circuit Judge James M. Batzer.
"I think things like that show I that I have the trust of people who really know the job," he said.