Kloote, 73, is retiring after 30 years on the bench due to age limitations.
Ottawa County Magistrate Vernon Helder, 51, of Holland; and Ottawa County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Craig Bunce, 46, of Zeeland Township, are vying to fill Kloote’s seat.
“I’ve been in the court system for nine years,” Helder said. “I have a good idea how the court system functions and it functions pretty efficiently.”
Helder said he is an attorney magistrate and is able to perform judicial functions similar to district court judges.
“I thoroughly enjoy working in the judicial capacity and as a result decided to run for District Court judge,” he said. “I was encouraged to run for this position by my family, friends and colleagues, along with Judge Richard Kloote.”
Bunce said after several years in private practice and more than 18 years as an assistant prosecutor for Ottawa County, he has been able to help people resolve conflicts, give a voice to the victims of crime and hold individuals responsible for their actions.
“As a judge I would like to continue helping people to resolve conflicts,” he said. “I also would like to redirect individual behavior with the hope of preventing future criminal actions. Through my work with the sobriety treatment program I have seen lives changed and families reunited while making our roads a safer place to travel. I look forward to the opportunity of making a difference as an Ottawa County District judge.”
Helder said his experience as a magistrate, as a research attorney for the Michigan Court of Appeals and as a litigation attorney makes him the best choice to be the judge.
As magistrate, Helder said he has presided over more than 6,000 small claims civil cases, 6,500 traffic and ordinance violation hearings, reviewed and signed more than 2,600 arrest warrants and 650 search warrants, and accepted pleas on more than 6,500 misdemeanor criminal cases.
“I have experience working in the district court and would make sure that everyone using our District Court continues to receive the service they deserve,” he said. “I would continue to work on making our court system more efficient by encouraging electronic filing and paperless files.”
Bunce said it’s his background in criminal law that makes him the best choice.
“While the District Court processes both civil and criminal matters, the majority of a district judge's time in any given week is spent on dealing with criminal case filings,” he said. “I think my several years of private practice and over 18 years of service as an assistant prosecutor has prepared me well to effectively handle the cases filed in the District Court. … I understand the issues that relate to fair and just resolution of these matters.”
Bunce also said he would use technology to increase the efficiency of processing cases.
District judges are elected to six-year terms for which they are paid $138,272 per year.