Guilderland has new judge and new highway super

— From the website of Napierski, VanDenburgh, Napierski & O’Connor, LLP

Christine Napierski

Gregory Wier

Gregory Wier

GUILDERLAND — Guilderland has a new justice in trial attorney Christine Napierski and a new highway superintendent in the current director of parks and recreation, Gregory Wier.

Both were appointed at Tuesday’s Guilderland Town Board meeting to fill recent vacancies. Councilman Paul Pastore abstained for both appointments while the other four board members approved them.

Napierski replaces Richard Sherwood who resigned on March 5, a week-and-a-half after he was charged with grand larceny and scheme to defraud, both felonies.

Before the announcement Tuesday night, Napierski had already spent several days “shadowing” one of the town’s two elected justices, to prepare for her new role.

“It’s been really interesting,” she said Wednesday, observing Judge John Bailey handle arraignments and oversee a misdemeanor trial. Napierski said Bailey has taken the time to discuss with her, for instance, the issues around blood testing in a traffic case and the criteria that he uses in deciding whether to set bail for a defendant.

Napierski also watched him handle 300 tickets in traffic court Monday night. She will shadow the other justice, Denise Randall, next week, she said; her start date will be April 30.

Town Supervisor Peter Barber said Wednesday that Napierski was selected for her depth of experience in trial law, mediation, and negotiations, as well as for her even temperament and her ability to meet the scheduling demands of the job, which requires being available at all hours of the day, every third week.

Napierski is a Democrat, like Guilderland’s two other justices.

The town board interviewed 14 candidates, including Pastore, for the position. The town’s three judges rotate, week by week, handling all of the judicial matters in the town including two evenings per week of court, all arraignments, and any trials.

Napierski is a founding partner of Napierski, VanDenburgh, Napierski & O’Connor, at 286 Washington Avenue Extension. She has worked for 25 years as a trial attorney in the area of civil liability, defending cases that include automobile negligence, medical malpractice, and municipal liability.

She grew up in Guilderland and graduated from Guilderland High School in 1982. She attended Syracuse University and Albany Law School. She is married and has a 13-year-old son.

Napierski has been interested in becoming a judge, since starting to practice law, but never really pursued it, she said. “My son is older now, and this opportunity came up, and I felt it was time to try something new.”

The term of her appointment will run through Dec. 31, 2018. She would then need to run for the post in November; the term that would start Jan. 1, 2019 would be a full term, of four years.

In 2017, the position of town justice in Guilderland paid $51,170.

Barber cited temperament as an important qualification for a judge. How would Napierski describe hers?

“I’m an even-tempered person,” she said. “I’m very respectful of other people, and always willing to listen to both sides of any issue.

“I would not be the type of judge to fly off the handle,” she said. “Not often do I get mad.”

Highway super

Gregory Wier, director of parks and recreation for the town, was appointed highway superintendent. He will continue a longstanding tradition of a having a Republican in that post. Todd Gifford, active in the town’s Republican Party, had worked for the department for 38 years when he retired as superintendent in 2011.

The town was mostly Republican when Gifford started and is now mostly Democratic.

Current superintendent Steve Oliver, also a Republican, announced his retirement in March. He had served as highway superintendent since 2011, replacing Gifford, and had one more year to go in his term.

Wier could not be reached for comment Wednesday afternoon.

The term of Wier’s appointment will start on April 28. Oliver’s last day is to be April 27.

Wier’s appointment will end on Dec. 31; he would need to run in November to fill out the remainder of Oliver’s term, which is one year.

Four candidates applied to be highway superintendent, a position that pays $92,500 annually.

Barber said on Wednesday night that he did not have access to his files but estimates that Wier has worked for the town for more than 30 years.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, Barber said that Wier’s qualifications include his supervisory experience as highway foreman, transfer-station superintendent, and director of parks and recreation.

Barber also cited Wier’s familiarity with personnel issues, preparing annual budgets, and managing large projects and contracts.

Wier always works very well with the public, Barber said. “It makes no difference who it is,” he said, “Greg always gave his time, and I’m sure he’ll do the same as highway superintendent to the public, responding to their needs.”

Wier also works well with legislative leaders and others who are involved in improving the quality of life in the town, said Barber.

Barber said no candidates were asked about their political affiliation or plans for seeking election.

After the vote, Barber quipped, “Now to find a Parks director. It starts all over again!”

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