With seven days until city elections, the three candidates for Roswell Municipal Judge pitched their varied professional backgrounds and visions for the city’s court system to voters at a candidate forum on Tuesday.
Incumbent Judge Joseph Seskey and his two challengers Timothy Davidson and Gary Galassini were at the Leadership Roswell Alumni Association’s Candidate Forum at the Roswell Convention & Civic Center.
The Municipal Election is March 3, but early voting has already begun. All registered voters who reside in Roswell will be able to vote in the race for city judge.
The manager of West Lake Hardware and a volunteer with the New Mexico Mounted Patrol, Davidson emphasized his business experience and passion to serve the community.
“I serve, I give as much as I can through West Lake, I give as much of my time as I can through other community organizations, now I want to take that to a new level, and I want to serve as your municipal judge,” he said.
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Galassini, a Roswell native and third grade teacher at Sunset Elementary, said speaking before the audience was not his idea of a good time.
“I am not the most eloquent speaker or the best politician. I am up here because I feel our community deserves better than it has received,” he said. Galassini added that he is a success because of Roswell, where he grew up and was educated.
Seskey has been the city’s municipal judge since Aug. 9 when he replaced Eric Brackeen. He now hopes to use that experience to win a full term on the bench.
He stated when people vote, they consider a person with core skills: legal ability, integrity, impartiality, communication skills, professionalism, temperament and administrative capacity.
“I excel in all of these areas,” he said. He added that he is grateful to have been appointed to serve as municipal judge and hopes he can be elected to retain that position and begin the work he started.
Following their introductions, moderator Rick Kraft asked all three candidates a series of questions.
One of the questions was how each candidate would effectively work to lead municipal court staff.
Davidson said a judge at the municipal level must wear many hats, including as an office manager for the court, which has a budget and payroll. He said that area is one where he has expertise.
“I know how to manage a business, I know how to help and delegate, teach training and how to motivate employees,” he said.
Galassini said despite his lack of background in the courtroom, he possesses strong organizational and professional skills.
“So organizational skills, professional management skills and efficiency will save us money and save us time in work,” he said.
Galassini added he also wants to increase the number of citations that can be resolved online and consolidating the calendar will make things operate better.
Seskey said throughout his career he has been tasked as a law enforcement officer with going in to offices and making improvements, and also served as a head of his police association at the time.
“I have a reputation of going in and bringing us into compliance to ensure we were following best practices, that we were as efficient a possible,” he said.
Since his time with the municipal court, Seskey said he has done a comprehensive review of all systems and operations, including management of the budget.
Candidates were asked what they thought was the most important responsibility of a municipal judge.
Galassini said a judge should be more about helping the community rather than being punitive.
The most important thing that the judge needs to do is project an image of impartiality and fairness to the public, Seskey said.
“We need to ensure the public has confidence in their judiciary and we do this by being courteous and respectful,” Seskey said.
Candidates were also asked if they thought they could reduce the number of people coming into court by educating the public.
As judge, Seskey said he does not decide how many cases make their way through the court, that is decided based on actions of law enforcement, animal control and code enforcement.
“We are the arbitrator or the middle in that regard, we don’t control what cases are filed,” Seskey said.
The court’s role varies and includes not only punishment, but alternative sentencing and that educates the public.
Davidson said more technology and online services are needed that can consolidate cases.
“We can look at many ways to simplify and reduce the need for people to come to court,” Davidson said.
For many people, coming to court is an inconvenience. He said the municipal court might want to have a weekend court or night court which can accommodate people who are busy during the court’s traditional hours.
Galassini said he believes educating people on the law, especially as it relates to building codes and regulations, and licenses people are required to have, will prevent people from having to come to court.
“People need to know and if they don’t, they don’t know they are breaking the law,” Galassini said.
The candidates were also asked what people and experience they would draw from on the bench
Seskey said he has a wealth of background in the city of Alexandria, Virginia where he worked with code enforcement, animal control and law enforcement.
“I have the experience and I know what officers experience in initiating actions. I can draw from all of that experience,” he said.
Davidson said one of the biggest factors that would influence him on the bench is his faith, and how people all need a second chance. However, his work experience as a business manager and in law enforcement informs him that a person needs to be fair, firm and consistent in one’s standards.
“So I feel my work and my religion give me those tools where I can be a fair, firm and consistent judge sitting on the bench and serve this community and the people here in Roswell,” Davidson said.
To keep up with coverage of this and other 2020 elections of local and regional interest, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/elections/.
Editor’s Note: Additional coverage of the Municipal Elections Forum will appear in a future edition of the Daily Record.
Breaking news reporter Alex Ross can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 301, or at email@example.com.