Max Denning

In one of Northeast Oregon’s closest races, Wes Williams has eked out a win against incumbent Mona Williams in the election for 10th Circuit Court Judge, which encompasses Union and Wallowa counties.

Unofficial returns from Union and Wallowa counties had Wes with 52.66 percent of the vote to Mona’s 47.17 percent.

Wes said he thought it was important for voters to have a chance to choose their own judge.

“It was important to me to contest the seat because it had been a long time since the voters of Union and Wallowa counties had the opportunity to elect their own judge,” Wes said. “A judge should not be selected from the top down. A judge should not be selected by the governor. A judge should be elected by the people.”

Wes has been an attorney in La Grande since 1996. He works as both as a civil and criminal lawyer.

He said the transition from lawyer to judge will be challenging.

“I think it’s going to require a lot of hard work, studying and self-discipline, but that’s something I’m accustomed to,” he said. “I’m very humbled the citizens of Union and Wallowa counties have honored me, and I’ll work for them every day as hard as I can to be the best judge I can.”

At the Union County Candidates Forum, Wes identified the most pressing issue facing Union and Wallowa counties as drug abuse. He said he wanted to expand the use of drug treatment court.

“Something we could expand is something Judge Russ (West) started years ago and he did a great job with it, and that’s our drug treatment program,” Wes said. “If it’s a first-time offense, and not involved in violence, then you can enroll in the drug treatment program. If you comply with drug treatment court, then we can help you become clean and start a life of sobriety.”

Wes was born in Oregon City and graduated from Estacada High School in 1979. He went on to attend Southern Oregon State College before graduating from Portland State University with a degree in social science and a teaching certificate. Wes taught at Sandy High School for seven years while saving money for law school. He then attended law school at the University of Oregon and graduated with a juris doctor degree in 1996.

Wes has defended clients from numerous criminal charges, and has even won a case in front of the Oregon Supreme Court.

Wes said leaving his practice will be difficult for him.

“I’m really going to miss my clients,” he said. “In 22 years, I’ve built a huge clientele of some really quality, hard-working people from all walks of life, and it’s going to be difficult to let that go.”

Wes will be sworn in January 2019.

Mona could not be reached for comment before deadline.