Couthouse exterior

The Yellowstone County Courthouse.

Yellowstone County commissioners on Tuesday appointed Scott Turner, former finance director, as auditor and Jeanne Walker, a private practice attorney, as justice of the peace.

Both elected positions had been vacated Nov. 30 with the retirements of former Auditor Debby Hernandez and her husband, Justice of the Peace Pedro Hernandez.

The commissioners voted unanimously for both appointments after conducting public interviews on Monday and Tuesday.

The commission wasted no time in filling the auditor's job, moving the appointment to the top of the board's agenda and voting.

Commissioner Robyn Driscoll, who nominated Turner, said, "Scott Turner has the edge with experience with the county."

District Judge Ingrid Gustafson swore in Turner immediately.

"Scott, congratulations. Welcome back to work," said Commission Chairman John Ostlund.

Turner, who retired in 2015 after 28 years with the county, including 26 years as finance director, walked down the hall to his new office.

Turner told commissioners in his interview he thought the job would be "a good fit" and that with his extensive county financial experience, he didn't think there would be much of a learning curve.

Turner did not commit to running for election when the current four-year term expires in 2018 but said he would decide after being in office a few months.

The auditor's salary is $69,721. 

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Commissioners interviewed justice of the peace candidates Tuesday morning and voted to appoint Walker after a short break.

Other finalists were Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Scott Ayers and Deputy County Attorney Robert Spoja.

Commissioners will swear in Walker at their 1 p.m. Thursday discussion meeting.

Walker, a partner in the Fred Law Firm and Associates, said, "I'm thrilled. I'm just excited to get started." 

Walker told commissioners she has the work ethic to "show up every day for the community" and the experience for the job. She said she loves the court and the law and that "it's time to take the next step in my life."

Walker's practice includes criminal defense work, family law, wills and estates and appellate cases. In addition, Walker said, she has served as a judge pro tem in justice court as needed.

Walker also said she has administrative and budget experience from having started and run her own law firm for 10 years. 

As a judge, Walker said it's important to serve with integrity and impartiality despite the difficulty of decisions.

Walker also said she has presided over disputes as a temporary judge and has experience in small claims and civil court. She also recognizes that many litigants represent themselves and that is it important to make sure the process is fair and that litigants understand rulings.

Walker, who was a finalist when the commission appointed Justice of the Peace David Carter in 2013 to fill a vacancy, said she will run for election when the four-year term expires in 2018.

Walker said earlier, when she applied for the job, that she would run for election regardless of whether she got appointed. Walker already has filed paperwork to organize her campaign. 

The justice of the peace salary is $101,082. Yellowstone County has two justice of the peace positions.

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Federal Court, Yellowtone County Reporter

Federal court and county reporter for The Billings Gazette.