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Hilltowns Archives The Altamont Enterprise, January 8, 2009
Berne’s new judge enthused
By Zach Simeone
BERNE One of the town’s two judges has stepped down, but an eager replacement has jumped in to fill his shoes.
After more than 20 years as town justice, Richard Guilz has retired from his post. Stepping in is Al Raymond, 51, a Berne resident for about 24 years. Retired now, Raymond had been a radiologist and a postal worker.
“When I was asked to be judge, I was so honored and humbled,” said Raymond. He completed the certification process on Dec. 14. “So, I am a sitting judge,” he said.
“It’s hard to get people to step forward for a job like this, because it requires a lot of time,” he said of his new post. “Town justice is on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. There’s quite a bit of responsibility, and quite a bit of training.”
Raymond described the three weekends of training in Syracuse, N.Y., as “intensive.” He trained with more than 60 other new judges from all over New York State.
“After the first two days, I felt like I had enough information for a two-year degree; after the second weekend, I had a bachelor’s degree,” he laughed. “The professors were stellar, and it was required that they be great just to keep our interest, because there was just that much information. One of the things that really struck me in class was that we were ‘practicing patriots,’ and ‘constitutional idealists.’”
Asked about his goals as town justice, Raymond said, “I just want to continue serving the town and community. I was told that this could be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. My co-justice said that, years from now, I could have a young fellow come up and say, ‘You made a big difference in my life in a difficult time.’”
Raymond began public service as a way to give back to the community, after the “great experience” had by his children growing up in the Hilltowns.
He and his family first moved to Berne in December of 1984, he said. It was a few days before Christmas.
“My dad had us up here hunting at Partridge Run, fishing at Thompson Lake, picnicking at Thacher Park, so it was nice to end up living out here,” said Raymond. “The quality of life is really wonderful, especially for the kids,” he said.
He has been active in the Hilltown community for more than a decade, since his three daughters went to the Westerlo School. His two older daughters now work at the Van Etten Farm in Knox. “They’ve had a great experience here,” he said.
“I became active with the 4-H Seven Mountaineers, served 10 years on the Berne Youth Council, and I’ve been on the conservation board the last two years,” said Raymond. He has also been an Albany County Democratic Committee member, and was part of the process to look for a replacement for Judge Guilz.
Raymond himself grew up in Rotterdam, where he went to Mohonasen High School. He then went on to Hudson Valley Community College, where he studied radiology. “I worked in most of the hospitals in the Capital District, either full-time or part-time,” he said. “I’ve maintained my license, and look forward to doing more work in the future.”
He also worked in the postal service for 25 years. “Around 2001, I became a shop steward, and then I was asked to serve as the legislative director of the local 390 Postal Workers Union.” He is now retired from the post office.
“I retired early so I could focus on my kids,” Raymond said. “And, with my parents in their golden years, having health issues, it was nice being able to help them out,” he said.
Raymond recently became a licensed outdoor guide, and trains with Whitewater Challengers, a whitewater rafting company in the Adirondacks.
“A lot of the major rapids up there are named after log drivers who have perished there,” Raymond said. “In the narrows, one of the biggest holes is called the Widow-maker, where waves start going from 12 up to 20 feet, so you can imagine why it’s called that. It’s amazing to watch some videos we’ve taken from downstream.”
But when he isn’t rafting, Raymond will be helping to maintain a law-abiding Berne.
“I’m really working hard to do the best job that I’m able to do,” he said, “and look forward to serving the community.”