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Council rules to increase judge’s salary

The Roswell City Council voted 8 to 1 Thursday to boost the municipal judge salary by $10,000 a year. From left are Councilor Judy Stubbs, Councilor Steve Henderson, Councilor Margaret Kennard and Mayor Dennis Kintigh. (Lisa Dunlap Photo)

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Roswell’s next municipal judge, to be decided on by voters during the ongoing local election, will receive a salary of $70,000 a year, a boost of $10,000 over the current salary.

The Roswell City Council voted 8-1 Thursday night to raise the compensation after a public hearing.

City Attorney Aaron Holloman said the new salary will be effective from April 1, 2020, to March 30, 2024.

The approved ordinance, which changes the Roswell City Code, also ensures that the judge’s salary will be 80% of the state-determined magistrate judge salary starting in 2024.

If the state compensation scale stays the same, the municipal judge pay would be about $76,241 a year by April 1, 2024.

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Holloman and city documents explained that the salary for the position cannot change during a person’s tenure in office unless additional non-judicial duties are added to the person’s responsibilities.

No one from the general public spoke for or against the raise, and none of the city councilors asked questions or debated the issue prior to the vote. But the matter had been considered in January by the City Council, when it decided to advertise for and hold the public hearing.

Councilor Savino Sanchez Jr. was absent, which left nine councilors during that portion of the meeting to vote on the matter. Councilor George Peterson cast the only dissenting vote.

“The main reason was because I thought the salary is too high, and it was tied in with the state, so it would automatically go up,” he said.

One of the councilors who voted in favor, Steve Henderson, a member of the City Council Finance Committee, said that the municipal judge position is a “horrendously” tough job and that a good salary is necessary to attract qualified people. He added that, at some points in past years, the city has experienced difficulty finding people to serve.

“I think the job is a big job,” he said, “and I think we have underpaid the municipal judge for many years. And I think this brings it up to where it should be.”

Three candidates are running for the municipal judge position: Timothy Davidson, a retail store manager and a certified law enforcement officer with the New Mexico Mounted Patrol; Gary Galassini, an elementary school teacher who has training and a degree in occupational health and safety; and incumbent Joseph Seskey, a retired police officer who has held the position since Aug. 9 and previously had served as an alternate judge starting in March 2016.

Early and absentee voting is occurring now for city elections. Election day is March 3.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.