Name: Gretchen Hollar Kirkman
Hometown: Born in Surry County, raised in Dobson and current resident of Mount Airy.
Family: Granddaughter of the late LeeRoy and Reba Hayes (lifelong residents of Elkin and members of Elkin Valley Baptist Church), Daughter of Dr. Thurman Hollar (Surry County resident, retired professor from Surry Community College) and Ann Hollar Garner (State Road resident, retired Surry County School Teacher and member of United Methodist Church in Elkin), Stepfather, Andy Garner. Sister-in-Law of John Hall (State Road Resident and owner of Speedy Chef), Sister to Jennifer Hall (State Road resident and Elkin Elementary School teacher) and Scott Hollar ( Dell employee). Nephew Harrison Hall and Nieces Maryfrances Hall and Anniston Hollar. Husband is Treva Kirkman, Owner/Broker of Kirkman Realty. Mother of Lily and Rose Kirkman (Both attend elementary school and engage in extracurricular activities in Surry County).
Education: Dobson Elementary School, Surry Central High School, Surry Community College, UNC at Chapel Hill (Double major), Wake Forest School of Law, Passed bar exams in NC, NY and NJ.
Work Experience: District Court Judge for Surry County and Stokes Counties. Seventeen years experience practicing law in Surry County prior to becoming your Judge. I practiced in every court, civil and criminal, that I now preside over.
Civic/Church activities: Member Dobson First Baptist Church, soccer coach, Cheerleading coach, volunteer for Special Olympics and with Danceworks Studios in Mount Airy.
1. Do you feel the court system operates fairly? What changes would you favor to ensure fair trials?
I am a Judge that is tough on crime. As a District Court Judge when sentencing a repeat offender, under the current law, I am only allowed to enter two consecutive sentences. On many occasions a defendant appears before me and is either found guilty of or plead guilty to multiple charges that occur on three or more dates of offense. In this scenario, the defendant can only receive TWO sentences. The law needs to be changed so that I am able to enter sentences based on all the facts, including multiple dates of offense, instead of my hands being tied due to current law. While on the bench I do not make the law, I uphold the Constitution and treat everyone equally.
In Surry County we have three different weeks for civil non-jury matters to be heard, including Divorce, Equitable distribution, Alimony, Post-separation support, child support, custody, magistrate appeals, lengthy pre-trial motions, counterclaims including but not limited to unfair and deceptive trade practices. There are so many contested custody cases there is not enough time during the three weeks to handle all the cases and give each case the time they deserve. Due to the amount of divorce and contested custody cases in Surry County, there needs to be a separate Family Court so that all matters can be reached with both parties receiving the time to be fully heard.
Finally, more children are being taken and placed in DSS custody. At this time there are typically 2-3 days per month that these cases are heard. DSS Court needs to be given more days each month so that the court can hear all evidence necessary to enter orders, while being able to give our social workers and guardian-ad-litems specific days/times to be present in court so that they are not sitting around all day in court instead of working.
2. How would you handle cases involving opioid misuse, in order to help address the addiction crisis?
I am a Judge that is fair. For first time offenders possessing certain drugs and types of paraphernalia, as the law is currently written, unless the offender consents otherwise, I can only enter a monetary sentence. I do not have the power to order a substance abuse assessment or drug treatment so that the defendant will not offend again in these types of cases. The law needs to be changed so that I can require drug treatment/assessments and intervention without having to have the consent of the defendants.
Currently, with first time offenders, when either they consent or they are in possession of a type of drug where consent is not required, I order drug treatment by way of assessment, compliance with the substance abuse therapy and proof of on going compliance coupled with some form of probation. This can be in the form of in-patient or out-patient rehabilitation. Furthermore, when defendants are placed on supervised probation in these instances, the probation officer can keep track of progress and violations of their therapy and give guidance to the offenders concerning the order that was entered and aid in successful completion. In Surry County and Stokes County we have probation officers who work hard not only to bring violators of Court orders before the court, but also to help and assist the defendants.
I do not take the same approach with repeat offenders, who are repeatedly coming in and out of court. When their therapy is not working, and the result is more charges, then I am tougher on their punishments. I would not be protecting our citizens and our children if I handled cases any differently.
3. What do you feel are the most concerning cases in the 17B district, and how will you guide defendants to become better contributing citizens?
The most concerning cases in Surry County and Stokes county are criminal charges that are a result of drug use, Custody cases and DSS cases. As I have set forth above, I am fair but tough on crime. We have to be to protect our citizens and children.
When it comes to custody cases and DSS cases, I am a mother and had seventeen years experience with custody cases and DSS cases prior to becoming your judge. Orders should not be entered regarding the custody of minor children either to a parent, grandparent, DSS or a third party from a judge who has never raised a child ( either his own or someone else’s) and never practiced a day in custody court and DSS court. It is a formula for malpractice and the result is an issuance of orders that substantially, negatively impact and affect children for the rest of their lives. Ignorance is not bliss especially when it comes to entering orders that are in the best interest of our children. There is a massive amount of contested custody cases in Surry County and Stokes County and with every case as a Judge I enter orders based on the best interest of the children. I am a God fearing, well qualified and experienced attorney and Judge in custody cases, and a parent! That is the formula for your best and most effective Judge. Most days when court orders are entered regarding children, there will be multiple people upset with the order. However, with my orders, they cannot be upset because I am ignorant of the law, or that I do not know what it takes to raise children.
I am the best, most qualified and experienced person for my job. As your Judge I work hard every day protecting you and our children. Unlike my opponent whose experience is in criminal court, I have seventeen years experience in every court I preside over, including criminal court, criminal juvenile court, civil court, including custody, equitable distribution, alimony, post separation support, separation agreements, divorce,and other civil matters that come before me. As your Judge, I have a proven record of being fair, but tough on crime, upholding the constitution, not making laws while on the bench and treating everyone equally! I am a God fearing woman who is raising my kids in church. Unlike my opponent, I am born and raised in North Carolina and in Surry County, our District. My husband and myself are raising our children in our district. Keep me Judge Gretchen Hollar Kirkman as your District Court Judge.