mary sue kiper

Mary Sue Kiper, who has twice been appointed Justice of the Peace for precincts 1 and 4, is running for election this Spring.

Mary Sue Kiper has been appointed to serve as Panola County Justice of the Peace for Precincts 1 and 4 twice, and this election she’ll be running for the office again.

Kiper has worked in the JP offices for over 21 years, beginning in May 2000. She was civil clerk under Judge Pat Davis and Judge Laura Taylor until 2007, when Davis retired and recommended she be appointed as JP. Kiper served in the office from August 2007 to November 2008, when she ran for the office and lost to Judge David Gray. After that she worked as clerk again until Gray’s retirement and she was appointed JP again in May 2020.

“There was a weird election in 2020. I put my name in, but it was the chairpersons of the parties had to decide who was gonna be on the ballot. They chose Larry Fields. So at that point on Nov. 30, 2020 I retired and went home because there was no place for me up here at that time,” Kiper said. “Then June 2021, Judge Hughes called me and said ‘Hey listen, they’re gonna let us have a temporary person, would you be interested?’ ‘Sure!’ Retirement was not for me, and so I took her offer to come back and be her clerk.”

The Justice of the Peace has many duties, including acting as magistrate over the jail, setting bail bonds, being called to death scenes, and serving in the courtroom for small claims, debt claims, evictions and more.

When Judge Fields decided not to run for the JP office again, Kiper said she prayed and decided it was what she wanted to do again.

“I’ve always been able to help people, whether it was in my position as the clerk or as the justice of the peace, and I really love that part of my job,” Kiper said. “I like being helpful, and Ms. Pat, she always taught us that the people were the most important thing. That was our main focus, was to please them... We listen to people and try to help them as best we can, but we always make a point of telling them ‘we can’t give you any legal advice; I can help you as much as I can without stepping across that border.’”

Kiper said the job is to “always try to make the people feel a little more comfortable about the whole thing,” because people can be nervous going to the courtroom or dealing with the office.

“I always felt like when I was the judge that I could help a little bit more because then you step into a role where you go out and if you’re on a death scene, you can console that family, you can be there for them and help them through that situation. A lot of times people just want an ear, just let me tell you my troubles, and we’re like ‘go ahead.’ We can’t give advice, but I’ll be that ear, that heart to listen to,” she said.

If elected, Kiper’s priority is to be there for the people.

“Be honest with them, fair with them, compassionate, use some common sense... I loved it when I was JP because I did feel that that was my place and that you were there to help the people, to do your job, to be fair in the courtroom, because we are the middle person,” she said. “We’re not on anybody’s side when we go to that courtroom. You have to be fair and impartial, and I never sat on a case that I didn’t feel like I could be fair on. So my goal is just to get in there and to just keep doing what I’ve always done, like I say be fair with people and always be there for them; if they come I’ll be in the office. When I was JP back when I took over Ms. Pat that was the longest time I spent in there which was 16 months, and I didn’t take vacation. My job was very important to me, and it still is, even at this level. I enjoy what I do, but like I say I do hope to become JP again. I feel that’s where I’m supposed to be.”

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