The upcoming Roswell municipal judge election will give voters three choices: the current judge who is a retired police officer, a retail manager who also is a volunteer certified law enforcement officer, and a teacher with a background in occupational health and safety.
Incumbent Joseph Seskey is facing challengers Timothy Davidson and Gary Galassini for the seat, which has a four-year term.
The position now pays $60,000 a year, plus benefits, but Roswell city councilors are due to hold a public hearing February to consider raising the annual salary to $70,000.
According to the Roswell City Code, the municipal judge must be at least 25 years old, a qualified elector in the city and a high school graduate or the holder of a high school equivalency certificate.
Davidson is the manager of Westlake Ace Hardware Store on North Main Street, a position he has held for about eight years. He has worked in retail management for about 30 years.
Davidson also has been a certified law enforcement officer for about five years with the New Mexico Mounted Patrol, a volunteer law enforcement agency formed in 1941 that assists state, county and city law enforcement agencies.
Davidson said he thinks he can help the community by serving as judge.
“I want to make Roswell a better place,” he said. “I see some of the issues facing the city, and I feel my professional experience and my law enforcement experience can be used to help address some of them.”
He said that he thinks it is important to help people strive for excellence while also holding them accountable for their decisions and actions.
This is Davidson’s first run for public office. He was born in Roswell but raised in Dallas. He and his family, which includes his wife and mom, moved back 12 years ago.
He said he has been active in the community in many ways over the years, including as one of the volunteers in the annual Hike It and Spike It charity football tournament and with the Ace Hardware and Salvation Army annual Fan Drive to provide free fans to those in need during summer months.
“Service is one of my passions,” he said. “No matter the outcome, I know that I will continue to help Roswell move forward one way or another.”
Galassini is in his first year as a third-grade teacher with Sunset Elementary School. He said he is working on his teaching license, and he also holds a bachelor’s degree in occupational health and safety, which he received from Columbia Southern University in April 2018.
He has lived in Roswell for many years of his life, attending elementary, middle school and high school here and graduating from Goddard High School in 2007. His mom and grandmother continue to live here as well.
He said that he thinks his educational background and training would be useful if elected judge.
“Knowing a lot of the federal regulations and fire codes and stuff has always been kind of helpful, and I feel that it will also be helpful in the upcoming judicial race,” he said. “If there are any code enforcement issues going on in the city, as in fire safety regulations or building safety regulations, I’m pretty well-versed in that. I am just hoping that I can offer my knowledge and help service my community.”
This is Galassini’s first run for public office. He said he hopes that his candidacy can get more people and a wider range of people in the community involved and active in local government. He added that he wants to act as a unifier in the city.
“I just want to make sure that the public knows that I want to be on their side, and I want to create non-adversarial relationships between the community and the judicial system,” he said. “I don’t want it to seem that we are out to get them. I want to work with the community instead of fighting against them.”
Seskey has been the municipal judge since Aug. 9. Previously he served as an alternate judge beginning in March 2016.
He was appointed to fill an unexpired term that originally belonged to Lou Mallion, who won the seat in 2016 with Seskey as one of the other candidates.
When Mallion retired in May 2018, Eric Brackeen was appointed, but Brackeen resigned for personal reasons about six months ago. Mayor Dennis Kintigh then recommended Seskey for the position, and the Roswell City Council approved his appointment.
Seskey is a former police sergeant from Alexandria, Virginia. He retired in October 2013 after 25 and a half years with the law enforcement agency, where he had experience in crisis negotiations, narcotics, major crime units and investigative units as well as an administrator for various projects and divisions.
After retiring, he served in an interim position as the director of the Animal Services unit for the city of Alexandria.
About five years ago, he decided to return to Roswell, where he was born, to be with family. That includes his mother, Peggy, and his father, Joseph, who has since passed away, as well as numerous cousins and other relatives.
“I love Roswell and I am happy to be here,” he said. “It has been awesome that I have been able to come back and be part of the community in which I was born.”
Seskey said that, upon becoming judge full time, he began a comprehensive review of the practices, technologies and systems used by the court and its staff to improve efficiencies and ensure compliance with the New Mexico Supreme Court policies and rules.
He said he is interested in continuing that work to ensure that the court best serves the community and stays abreast with current federal and state legislation and city codes.
“We want to make sure that our forms conform with what is expected of those ordinances and how we are going to process those ordinances when those things come to our court,” he said.
He also said that the court software is not being utilized to its full potential and that he is working to train and provide information to staff.
“I am pretty confident that once we start using that software capacity, it is going to reduce redundancies, it is going to improve our staff processes, our workflow in the office, and it is going to make sense for the end-user,” he said.
He listed some other objectives for a second term as providing indigent services by contracting with a local law firm, expanding community service opportunities for defendants and ensuring fair and impartial treatment that protects people’s Constitutional rights.
“When you are a judge, you have to maintain impartiality,” he said. “You can’t show favoritism one way or the other, and I live by a strict code about that. I have a reputation for following the rules and that is not going to change. I believe in an impartial and independent judiciary. I believe in the separation of powers, and I believe in an independent judicial branch of government.”
He said that he invites people to visit the court to observe how he treats people and handles cases.
“If they come on one day, they are going to see the exact same thing every day,” he said. “I don’t deviate. Everybody is treated respectfully, with courtesy.”
Election day is March 3, with early and absentee voting beginning Feb. 4. In addition to the municipal judge race, the ballot will include five city councilor positions and a question about a $35 million bond issue for a proposed public safety complex. More information about the 2020 municipal elections is on the election page of the city website: www.roswell-nm.gov.
Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at email@example.com.