Town justice candidates in Gardiner

Bob Rich and Carmine Mele. (photos by Lauren Thomas)

Bob Rich and Carmine Mele. (photos by Lauren Thomas)

Two well-known Gardinerites, Bob Rich (Democrat) and Carmine Mele (Republican) are running for one seat as town justice.


Bob Rich (D)

Why did you decide to run for the position of Gardiner town justice?

My first job out of law school more than 25 years ago was as confidential law clerk to New York State Supreme Court judge Robert C. Williams. I was fortunate to be exposed to a first-class jurist, as well as the opportunity to not only observe, but participate in the behind-the-scenes operation of the court. We handled all kinds of cases, both criminal, from felonies to misdemeanors, and civil, from multi-million-dollar injury cases to minor property disputes. I came to greatly admire the judge’s dedication to fairness and the humane way he endeavored to apply the law. Although I moved on to private practice, I took with me the perspective that to be a judge is to hold a sacred position of public trust.


In Gardiner, we have had the benefit of two excellent public servants as our town justices in the honorable Bruce Blatchly and the honorable John E. Savago for many years. When I learned that Judge Savago had chosen not to run for another term, I decided, as someone who firmly believes in continuing our town’s tradition of quality judicial decision making, to step forward and offer my professional skills and experience to serve in this important position.


What skills/experiences/qualifications do you have that make you believe you’d make a competent town justice?

Since going into private practice, I have developed my skills as a trial lawyer, appearing in various courts, ranging from town justice courts to the New York State Court of Appeals. I have spent most of my career in courtrooms, where I have been able to observe some terrific judges in action.

As someone who was born and raised in Ulster County, giving back to the community I love is something I care about deeply. This is where I have chosen to raise my family, so I have a vested interest in Gardiner continuing to be a great, eclectic, accepting, beautiful and safe place to live. Serving on and presiding over various boards, including the New Paltz School Board and the Kingston Hospital Board, has given me opportunities to deliberate with those with sometimes starkly contrasting views and work together to reach consensus-based decisions. I am a founding member and current vice president of the New Paltz Central School District Foundation for Student Enhancement, a not-for-profit charitable organization whose goal it is to provide 21st-century enrichment opportunities for all students.

I believe that my many years of training and experience working in the court system, as well as my abiding dedication to community service, make me well-qualified to take on the duties and responsibilities of Gardiner town justice.


What do you see as the top two challenges facing the Gardiner town court?

The challenges facing our justice court — accommodating increasing demand for access and modernization while working with limited resources — are similar to those facing many justice courts in the Hudson Valley. Although the town justice courts are considered part of New York State’s Unified Court System, with their jurisdiction and powers codified by the state, they are each financially supported entirely by their local communities (with the exception of very small state grants being given on a temporary basis). That means as our town grows, the court will inevitably need to stay as efficient as possible to keep up with increased demand while striving not to put further strain on the town’s budget.