Wiest, as Northumberland County's new president judge, helps swear in new row officers, magistrate
SUNBURY - Northumberland County's inauguration ceremony represented a changing of the guard Monday, when new president judge, prothonotary, controller and magisterial district judge officially began their duties. Meanwhile, longtime incumbents James F. Kelley and Mary Zimmerman started another four-year term as coroner and register and recorder, respectively.
William H. Wiest presided at the 35-minute program in courtroom 1 at Northumberland County Courthouse after being sworn in as the new president judge by his predecessor, Robert B. Sacavage. Wiest, who has served on the county bench for 16 years, now resides in Rockefeller Township after living in Dalmatia most of his life.
Other officials taking oaths of office were prothonotary and clerk of courts Justin Dunkelberger, controller Christopher Grayson and magisterial district judge Michael Diehl, who will serve the Milton area.
Doing what's best
Sacavage, who officially retired Monday after serving 18 years on the bench and 12 years as district attorney, opened the ceremony by describing it as an "auspicious occasion." He thanked the employees with whom he worked through the years and stressed the importance of working together and doing what's best for the people of Northumberland County.
The Mount Carmel resident, who will be available for some assignments as a senior judge in Northumberland County and elsewhere, administered the oath of office to Wiest, who had his wife, Karen, and grandchildren Logan Wiest, Maggie Benner, Kaci Grimm and Peyton Wiest serve as witnesses.
Zimmerman, who resides in Northumberland, will begin her fourth, four-year term as register and recorder and has worked in the office for approximately 31 years. She was sworn into office by Wiest. Zimmerman's grandson, Kevin Hopper, served as her witness.
Sacavage then administered the oath of office to Kelley, who will begin his fourth term. Kelley's son, Kieran, and his mother-in-law, Patricia Czech, served as witnesses while holding a Bible from Poland that belonged to Kelley's late father-in-law, Walter Czech. Kelley resides in Coal Township.
Dunkelberger, who had his two children, Caden and Caitlyn, and father, Nelson Dunkelberger, serve as witnesses, was sworn into office by Wiest. The new prothonotary resides in Point Township.
Grayson, of Mount Carmel, was accompanied by his wife, Jennifer, while Sacavage did the swearing-in honors.
Wiest administered the oath of office to Diehl, who will begin a six-year term as magisterial district judge. Diehl was accompanied by his wife, Melissa.
The four row officers and Diehl were elected to their respective offices in November.
In his welcoming remarks, Wiest acknowledged several county and state officials in attendance, including state representatives Lynda Schlegel-Culver (R-108) and Kurt Masser (R-107). Richard Shoch was the lone county commissioner to attend the festivities.
Changing of guard
Judge Charles Saylor stated, "Today marks a changing of the guard."
Saylor commended Sacavage for his many years of service to the county as a judge and district attorney and said he was looking forward to working with Wiest in his new role. Saylor, a former law partner of Wiest who has known the judge for some 35 years, described him as a "family man, compassionate individual and conscientious worker."
The judges applauded each office holder after they were sworn in and praised family members and friends for their support.
Wiest, who had most of his large family in attendance, talked about his good working relationship with Sacavage through the years and said it is important for a judge to possess courtesy, wisdom, sobriety and impartiality.
"With the help of God and the continuing support of my wonderful family and friends, I will continue to hear courteously, answer wisely, consider soberly and decide impartially."
He also stressed the importance of being loyal and having gratitude, which he described as "the mother of all virtues."
Time to work
After the ceremony, each of the office holders expressed their gratitude to their loved ones, supporters and the voters of Northumberland County.
"I appreciate the people who elected me to a fourth term," Kelley said.
Diehl added, "I'm absolutely humbled and honored to be here today and I'm looking forward to working with everyone."
Dunkelberger said he was happy to be part of Monday's festivities, but realizes there's a lot of work ahead "to get the prothonotary and clerk of courts office to where it needs to be."
Grayson added, "I'd like to thank the citizens of Northumberland County for giving me this great opportunity, and I'm honored to go to work on their behalf."
Zimmerman said, "I thank the voters for the confidence they expressed in me and I pledge to continue to do the best job possible for the next four years."
'Into the sunset'
Prior to leaving the courtroom for the last time in his capacity as Northumberland County judge, Sacavage wished the best of luck to his successor and thanked the voters who have supported him through the years.
He concluded, "Now, it's time to pull a John Wayne and ride into the sunset."
Sacavage said he plans on taking a long vacation before returning to the bench in May on an as-needed basis.
In addition to Wiest and Saylor, senior judges Harold Woelfel Jr. of Union-Snyder County and Lawrence Clark Jr. of Dauphin County have been assigned to hear cases in Northumberland County Court.