Town justice, clerk, and highway super unopposed

Bob Johnson

NEW SCOTLAND  — The town’s clerk and highway superintendent — both Democrats — and one of its two judges, are running unopposed to keep their posts.

Highway Superintendent Kenneth Guyer could not be reached by The Enterprise for an interview.

Town Justice Bob Johnson

Bob Johnson is running to keep his appointed post of town justice, one of two in New Scotland. Currently, he is a member of the Independence Party, but, he says, last year he enrolled as a Democrat but that doesn’t become effective until the day after the general election. He will appear on the Democratic and Independence Party lines, but because of a technical issue, he will not appear on the Conservative line.

He is running because, he says, when Margaret Adkins resigned a year ago, one of the questions asked of him was “would you run … if you were appointed?” And he said yes.

He says he accepted the appointment because he held the job briefly in 1991 and liked it, and also now that he’s progressed in his career he can devote himself more fully to the job.

Johnson was appointed to the position of town justice in 1991 as well, but lost his bid for the seat in the next open election to Thomas Dolin, who served as town justice until he became town supervisor in 2008.

Johnson says, “The court I’m in now is far different from the one I had back in ’91 or ’92. It’s much more involved, it’s much bigger.”

As a licensed attorney, Johnson is required to do six hours of training to sit on the bench, but he’s chosen to do as much as he can — 18 hours, so far — because, he says, “It’s many more layers” now, and there is “a little more seriousness to it.”

For Johnson, what has changed is the volume, and the variety and seriousness of the cases.

He says when he began it was mostly vehicle and traffic cases. Now, he is seeing a lot of domestic issues. He says, when he was a town justice the first time, he probably had one arraignment for a domestic issue in his first eight to 10 months. Today, he estimates in the first three to four months of his present judgeship, he has had as many as 20 to 25 arraignments for domestic issues.

Asked if he thought the opioid crisis played a role in the spike, Johnson said, “In the ’90s, it was beer and alcohol, now it’s everything. And, in fact, it’s very few alcohol-related issues, completely.”

“I attended the two-hour presentation on opioids that Sheriff Apple put on about three weeks ago, just because I really wanted to understand a little bit more,” he said.

He said the sheriff said, “We can’t arrest ourselves out of this problem; people need treatment.” Johnson added,“The treatment part of it, I’m going to pursue.”

Johnson has dealt only with cases that involve marijuana or a small amount of pills, so dealing with the opioid epidemic at the town court level is new for Johnson, and he doesn’t know how to put treatment in as part of a final sentencing, yet. But he sees treatment as very positive if it can be included as part of the settlement process.

Johnson has lived in New Scotland for 35 years. He chaired the town’s zoning board until he was appointed town justice, earlier this year.

He attended Middlebury College and Albany Law School. Johnson worked for State Bank of Albany before moving into private practice. He is currently is a partner at the law firm Martin, Shudt, Wallace, DiLorenzo, & Johnson. And he is a member, and immediate past chair, of the Board of Directors of St Peter’s Health Partners.

Town Clerk Diane Deschenes

The New Scotland town website says that the town clerk's office is “frequently considered the center of town government,” because the office answers questions about all town departments and where information about them may be located.

 

 

Diane Deschenes has been town clerk since 2000, when she was first elected, and town tax collector since 2006, when the position was merged with the town clerk’s job. Tax collector is no longer a stand-alone elected position.

Prior to being tax collector and town clerk, Deschenes was a clerk in the assessor’s office, from 1996 to 1999.

Her clerk’s office is open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

In her time as clerk, Deschenes says, one of the things she is most proud of is organizing all of the town records with Laserfiche, which is an online document-management system. She says, she “started scanning all of our deeds, easements, and meeting minutes. They all go into Laserfiche program.”

Laserfiche has “certainly been beneficial for my job, they [all of the uploaded documents] are searchable once they are in there,” Deschenes says, adding, “It’s difficult sometimes to remember when things happen. I don’t know how you would find them without this program.”

Deschenes says she is also proud about “taking over the tax-collector job, saving taxpayers money for a whole separate position and benefits. We’ve saved pretty good on that.”

She concludes, “My door is always open, and I’m always open to ideas on how to save money for the taxpayers.”

The general election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 7.

More New Scotland News

  •  Daniela Filmer, the mother of Zachary Barrantes, the 25-year-old mentally-ill man who survived an attempted suicide at Thacher Park on New Year’s Eve, said no single person or institution is at fault for what happened on Dec.31; there had been breakdowns at every turn that night. 

  • After two students alerted Voorheesville school administrators on Monday to a threatening message they had found written on a bathroom mirror at the middle and high school campus, the Albany County Sheriff’s Office was called and bomb-sniffing dogs were brought in.

  • Kathy Fiero

    Labor and management came to an agreement in Voorheesville, as the teachers’ union and school district signed a five-year agreement; teachers had been working without a contract for 18 months. 

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