Sacavage announces retirement as president judge
SUNBURY - One of Northumberland County's longest serving public figures is set to retire.
Northumberland County President Judge Robert B. Sacavage released a statement Tuesday afternoon announcing his retirement from the bench at the start of the new year.
After serving 34 years as a county solicitor, district attorney and judge, Sacavage, 62, informed Gov. Tom Corbett and Chief Justice Ronald Castille of his intention to resign his commission effective Sunday, Jan. 5, according to the statement.
He gave no reason for the retirement, which will occur two years before the 10-year term he was retained for in 2005.
"I want to express my humble thanks to the electors of Northumberland County, who have provided support and confidence for more than three decades," Sacavage said.
After serving as county solicitor for four years, Sacavage was elected as district attorney in 1983, serving 12 years before running for and being elected a Northumberland County judge in 1995. He won retention in 2005.
"It is my view that there are two kinds of people that run for office," Sacavage's release says. "Those who want to be somebody and those who want to accomplish things. I tried to be the latter, though history will be the final judge."
Fellow Northumberland County Judge William Wiest said he was disappointed to hear he won't retire with his colleague.
"Unless the Legislature changes the rules, I am likely going to be forced to retire at the age of 70, in two years, and I would have loved out to go out in retirement with him," Wiest said.
He said the two judges worked well together for 16 years, Sacavage handling criminal court and Wiest, civil.
"We would meet and compare cases and we complimented each other very well. He will be missed here," he said.
County court administrator Brandy Yasenchak heard the news last week, when Sacavage, who first hired Yasenchak as his law clerk, personally told her.
"Judge Sacavage has been a boss and mentor to me for 13 years," Yasenchak said. "To work without his leadership and guidance will be quite a challenge for me. There are very few people that hold the integrity of the judicial branch of government in such high regards as Judge Sacavage."
Sacavage joked in the release about his accomplishments as a public figure: "surviving the rough and tumble of Northumberland County politics for 34 years is at the top of the list." He did say he was proud of his work in the field of justice.
"Preserving the independence of the judiciary and expanding accessibility to justice is critical to the mission of every president judge," Sacavage said. "It's up to others to grade my final report card."
"Through all these years, I was privileged to work with him. I never knew a time when he stopped to ponder if his decisions and ideas would be popular with elected officials or the public. Instead, he always stood strong for what he believed was right and I believe the Northumberland County court system is better for it," Yasenchak said.
It was under Sacavage's leadership in 2005 when Northumberland County began its Drug Court program, a three-phase, 18-month process for non-violent drug offenders to help break the cycle of dependency. It was only one of 10 such programs across the state, but in its initial year, the county saved $181,000 and 4,529 inmate days by not housing drug court participants at the county jail.
Since then, the treatment court program has expanded to include sessions for DUI, juveniles, veterans and behavioral health and intellectual/developmental systems.
"This is quite a feat for a fifth-class county and it has benefitted many defendants, their families and the communities in which they reside," Yasenchak said.
Sacavage also gave credit to court employees and elected officials with whom he has served.
"They are the unsung heroes who fulfill their oaths of office and competently perform their duties," the judge said.
Sacavage also thanked his family, friends and neighbors in Mount Carmel, his hometown, for ensuring that, away from the bench, he would live life as "a regular guy," and not allowed a moment of pretentiousness.
"It's the kind of humility that all judges should experience," he said.
After 18 years of service as a judge, Sacavage could be appointed as a senior judge by the state.
His two remaining years will be filled on the interim basis by appointment by the governor and approval from the State Senate.
Based on seniority, Wiest will assume the office of president judge. Charles Saylor is the third county judge.
"I'm not looking forward to all the administrative jobs that will be coming my way," Wiest said. "However, I will step up to the plate."