Voters in the Town of Gardiner will choose between two candidates for town justice on Election Day, November 3. Five-term incumbent Bruce Blatchly is running for reelection to the post of Gardiner town justice on the Democratic line. Town of Shawangunk police chief Frank Petrone is the Republican challenger for the post.
Why are you seeking another term?
Running the court and handling the legal and administrative problems that we face in the court system is a challenging job. I have enjoyed serving as Gardiner town judge for the last 20 years, and am running for reelection because I believe that I am experienced, unbiased and capable of serving the people of our town in this position for another four years. I find the responsibilities of the job rewarding, and it provides an interesting perspective on my regular law practice.
What changes would you like to see in the town court in the next four years, and why?
We are implementing procedures to deal with new requirements to provide counsel to all defendants at the initial arraignment. This requires considerable organization, since these arraignments often occur in the middle of the night when lawyers are not available, and this will probably be the most noticeable change in the daily functioning of the court over the next four years.
We are increasingly able to take advantage of modern information technology in the court, both to process our caseload and to exchange updated information with other parts of the state court system. This makes us more informed in dealing with the cases that come before us, and our use of this technology will continue to expand as we become more skilled in using these tools.
I would also like to continue to improve our ability to address the problems of domestic violence and substance abuse, which represent such a significant part of our criminal caseload.
What are the top three challenges facing the justice court right now?
The top three challenges facing our court now are:
- Keeping current on legal developments so that the judge is at least as knowledgeable of the law as the attorneys appearing in court are.
- Continuing to ensure that cases are handled uniformly, fairly and without bias.
- Formulating procedures to make counsel available at all arraignments, as is now being required.
Why did you decide to run for this office at this time, and what experience/qualifications would you bring to the job?
I decided to run for town justice because I am thinking of retirement from my current law enforcement position as police chief for the Shawangunk Town Police Department.
I feel my qualifications as police chief for 24 years and 43 years of active law enforcement would be a benefit to me if I were elected to town justice. During my tenure with the Shawangunk Town Police, I was assigned court bailiff duties, where I had full exposure to the court, where I was an aid to the court clerk and sitting justice while court was in session as well as maintaining safety and security for the court. This gave me insight as to the mechanics of the court and those appearing there; prosecutors, police officers, victims, defendants and defense attorneys, where I had interaction with all. While in the patrol division, I also encountered incidents with victims and offenders and what transpired, and action taken by myself. This would be a help to me as I could reflect on the type and nature of cases brought before me.
I am a 23-year member of the Ulster County Police Chiefs’ Association, serving on the executive board for 18 years, including nine years as president, sitting on key committees, 911 and Victims’ Impact Panel (STOP DWI), that are beneficial and assist all residents of Ulster County.
What changes would you like to see in the Gardiner town court in the next four years, and why?
I believe that the justice court in Gardiner operates efficiently. I will continue that and enhance it by applying for grants for personnel, training, equipment and security that will ease the burden of the taxpayer. During my tenure as police chief, the towns have been subject to unfunded mandates imposed on us by the state, resulting in expenses unplanned for. To ease the burden on the taxpayer, I have applied for and was awarded grants for personnel, equipment and training, where funding was quite extensive.
I also have prepared and implemented the budget for the Police Department for 24 years, keeping services up and taxes down. I will continue to do so by keeping the court running efficiently and keeping taxes down.
What are the top three challenges facing the Justice Court right now?
The top three challenges facing courts are:
1) Court calendar and caseload.
- Staffing and training.
- Safety and security.
All three are currently being handled in the court, and I would continue the practice, as well as seek funding to enhance the court and its operation.
To learn about the Gardiner town supervisor and Town Board candidates, visit newpaltzx.com.