Pct. 1 JP race

John D. Oswalt

Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Judge John D. Oswalt, who was appointed to the position in 2019, has announced his intent to officially run for the seat in the upcoming Republican primary election.

“I’ve enjoyed the office, and I have a degree in criminal justice and my background has kind of been serving, being a volunteer fireman for 30-plus years now and everything,” Oswalt said. “I just like giving back and being of service to the community. This is another way I can do that through the judge’s office and help people in need.”

He’ll be running in the Republican Primary. Most fulfilling for the JP, he said, is being able to provide a service and help others, especially in their time of bereavement when responding to inquests.

“It’s just being able to understand where they’re coming from,” Oswalt said, noting his background in the funeral home industry has particularly prepared him for that part of the job.

“I worked a little bit in the funeral home industry before I took this job. So that helped prepare me for that part of it,” said Oswalt. “And so it’s good to be able to help people out in their time of need and be that one that’s there for them that you could help them at a difficult time of their life.”

He also finds it gratifying to be able to positively impact students to help reduce truancy.

“I try to work with the kids on the truancy side and the young age, trying to get their attention before they get later in life where they can’t return from what they do with the decisions they make,” said Oswalt. “So it’s always been a desire for me to serve, and this is a way I can do that.”

Oswalt was appointed interim JP in September 2019 after the former sitting elected official was suspended from duty following an indictment and arrest on charges of theft and abuse of official capacity.

Upon his appointment, Oswalt and his new staff focused on a lot of housekeeping, getting files that had been pushed to the side and dormant for a couple of years back on the dockets. He and his staff were able to overcome the challenges and get the office back on track.

“We started from ground zero, pretty much,” said Oswalt. “I got to hire my own staff and do that. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great staff that’s enjoyed what they do, and they’ve been just as much involved as I have with trying to make that office a better place than what we found it in.”

He’s also been able to successfully implement new mandated technology changes.

“The county had us going through a big change the last year or two with our computer systems and our programs, and the way things are done these days as far as our e-filing goes and everything,” said Oswalt. “We’ve been very involved in those processes, trying to make them successful and get the kinks worked out for the future generations.”

Oswalt expressed how grateful he is to have the opportunity to work for the county.

“It’s just been a blessing to work, and working for the county has been a good thing,” said Oswalt. “Of course, it’s not the best paying job in the world, but yet we do it for the satisfaction. We enjoy where we work. We don’t like to not go to work every day. So when you can enjoy getting up and going to work every day, that makes it even that much better.”

Precinct 1 is the largest precinct in the county and covers Waskom, Elysian Fields, South Marshall and part of the Karnack and Uncertain areas. With redistricting, the precinct has expanded even more, taking in some area of U.S. 59 North.

“It’s just gotten bigger,” said Oswalt.

A people person, Oswalt enjoys meeting new people in his capacity as JP.

“You get to meet lots of people. I mean, I’m a people kind of guy, so it’s good to meet the different people and interact,” he said.

He also enjoys the various facets of the job.

“You don’t have the same thing every day, really,” said Oswalt.

According to the Texas Association of Counties, the justice of the peace presides over the justice court in cases involving misdemeanors, small civil disputes, landlord/tenant disputes and more. They also conduct inquests and may perform marriage ceremonies.

“We do Class C misdemeanor court. We have civil court, which now it’s been up to $20,000 on our limits on civil court,” Oswalt noted. “We do Class C traffic court. We have a couple of different school districts that we do truancy with and our school district, and then the small claims and then the civil suits and evictions. We stay pretty steady over there.”

Oswalt said his future plans include continuing to modernize the office.

“We’re making steps in the right direction, trying to be more easily accessible to the public through e-filing and those things with the virtual stuff for court proceedings,” he said. “We’re working towards getting to that part. Unfortunately, in the rural area of the county, people don’t really necessarily have the means to be able to do that.”

He said his office, which is in the Waskom subcourthouse, serves a rural area that doesn’t have access to broadband.

“It’s not open to everybody, and then some people are not very computer-savvy, so it’s a difficult (adjustment) for them,” he said. “But we hope to help get the office to where it continues to be efficient and produce for the county.”

“And, I hope to make a career out of it. I hope to be there a long time and maybe it’d be something I can retire from one day,” he said of the elected office.

Recognizing his employees, Oswalt said his staff also enjoys serving the public.

“We enjoy doing what we do,” he said. “I’m fortunate enough to have two great (ladies) that work diligently to make sure that our office is great. And of course we’ve gotten lots of feedback from people at the county. They really like what’s happening over there. So that’s always a blessing to pass on to my girls that they’re doing a job well done.”

Oswalt said it’s all about working as a team. He noted the sense of teamwork he has with his fellow JPs, as well.

“It’s all about a team thing. There’s four JPs and we all have to work together,” said Oswalt. “So we’ve been able to bridge that a little bit, I think. We’ve bridged that with all the precincts, and all get along well and communicate and work together.”

Outside of his role as JP, Oswalt is an active member of Marshall Elks Lodge, where he served as a past state president. Additionally, he’s an advisor to the Texas Elks Children’s Services Board, which hosts a summer camp for special needs children and offers a grant program to benefit kids.

He also serves on the board of directors of the Greater Marshall Area Chamber of Commerce and is chairman-select for the board. Additionally, Oswalt serves on the board of directors for the East Texas Justice of the Peace and Constables Association.

He’s been a volunteer firefighter for more than 30 years and serves as a lieutenant for Emergency Services District No. 3. Oswalt is also a reserve deputy in the Harrison County Sheriff’s Office and boasts a degree in criminal justice.

Oswalt worked in the funeral home business, for Meadowbrook Funeral Home, for three years prior to his appointment as JP. He also worked in the finance industry for several years and owned his own tool franchise previously.

A Marshall native, Oswalt and his wife Rene have been married for 15 years. The JP is also the proud father of three children and five granddaughters.

Offices up for Re-Election

Countywide positions up for grabs next year include: district attorney, county clerk, county judge, county court-at-law judge, district clerk, county treasurer, Pct. 2 county commissioner, Pct. 4 county commissioner, Pct.1 justice of the peace, Pct. 2 justice of the peace, and Pct. 3 justice of the peace.

Filing ends at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 13.

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