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It will perhaps come as a surprise to some that today we endorse Joseph Wood for a second term as the county judge in Washington County. It sort of surprises us, too, because we have from time to time criticized his decisions or behaviors. In reviewing the race, though, our editorial board became convinced the county judge's office looks to be managed effectively and efficiently and most of our criticism have focused on management style, not management results.

Do we have concerns? Yes, and we hope in a second term Wood will further develop his willingness to speak openly on the issues that face the county -- i.e., we'd love for county residents to hear more from the person they elected to serve and lead than from a county attorney who is supposed to be giving legal advice. We think the county judge owes it to his constituents to be visible and to lead by explaining his perspective.

Wood has faced some controversies, but the operations of the county judge's office are being carried out responsibly. Wood is capable of handling the day-to-day management of roads, county buildings, personnel and leadership from a conservative point of view that attracted voters to him in the first place. We appreciate, for example, that Wood doesn't assume a traditional expansion of the county jail is the only solution inmate crowding issues. He thinks other options may be a women's jail shared by Benton and Washington counties, or working together with a different county that might want to operate its own jail. We're not saying those will necessarily be the outcome, but looking for different ways to solve problems is a good quality in an elected administrative role.

For the record, we believe Jim House, the Democratic challenger, has the skills necessary to serve in the role, but Wood is a good fit for what voters seem to want in county leadership. Our hope is Wood will become more comfortable as a public figure whose decisions and behaviors will be observed and, yes, sometimes criticized. We also hope he realizes the more open he is to explaining his perspective, the more his constituents can grasp what he's trying to do for the county.

We think Wood has, after two years, perhaps figured out more about how to be the county judge for everyone and not just the party that launched him into office. The more that happens, the better county judge he will be. He has laid a good foundation for a successful second term, if voters choose to give it to him.

Commentary on 10/24/2018

Print Headline: For Washington County judge, stick with Wood

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