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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, January 5, 2012


Native son Victor La Plante retires after 24 years on the Rensselaerville bench

RENSSELAERVILLE — After a generation of serving as town judge, Victor La Plante has retired from the bench for medical reasons, and will begin attending town board meetings now that he has accepted role of deputy supervisor.

“There are some things I won’t miss,” La Plante said with a laugh, recalling his tenure as judge. “It’s not just going to court and banging your gavel. It’s your preparation; your research; the occasional phone ringing in the middle of the night when the police say they need a judge for an immediate arraignment; record keeping. All of this amounts to a substantial time expenditure. I think I’ve come to a juncture where I don’t need to make that expenditure.”

He said of being deputy supervisor, “Now, I have the opportunity to go to a town meeting and raise my opinion, and it will not reflect upon the town court. It will be Victor La Plante’s opinion. I’m really looking forward to that.”

This Sunday, Jan. 8, there will be an open house at Town Hall to honor La Plante’s 24-year career as judge.

“I have put together a compendium of things that I’ve been very grateful for, people that I’m grateful for, so that, when they come, I can acknowledge them,” he said of the open house.

Tuesday afternoon, La Plante told The Enterprise about his deep appreciation for his hometown.

“I was in the Navy from 1955 to 1959, but when it came time to raise my kids, there was only one place I wanted to be, and that was right here in the town of Rensselaerville,” he said, and it was the townspeople that made him want to stay.

Working as a town judge, La Plante said, is “the closest work to the people.”

“I was raised in this township, on a dairy farm, and I’ve had the best that there is to be offered to anybody,” said La Plante, who is 74. “I learned ethics early; I learned how to work early. Both of those have kept me in good stead all of my life. My children were the fifth generation in my family to live in the town of Rensselaerville. What a marvelous thing to happen. They were raised here, they graduated [from the] Greenville Central School here, just like I did.”

La Plante believes that his growing up on a dairy farm contributed to his desire to serve his town, he went on.

“There was a man by the name of Henry Van Epps, my granddad, and he always said, ‘Give back to the place in which we live,’” said La Plante. “He was an ethical man, and he was a good, hardworking, upright, honest man. He was an assessor way back then, and that was his example to us that we should give back to our township. He was the most honorable man I ever knew.”

After working for the New York State Police for 25 years, La Plante saw an opportunity to become a town justice when Rensselaerville Judge Michael Sikule died.

“I felt I could parlay my experience in law gained in the State Police into being a town justice,” said La Plante, and he was re-elected for every subsequent term until his retirement.

Asked about points of pride during his career, La Plante said that, of the 4,100-plus cases he heard, “Any appeal that was taken to a superior court went down in flames. I’m very proud of that, because that speaks well of my preparation.”

La Plante said that he thinks being a town judge requires more work than justices typically get credit for.

“But I never begrudged it,” he said. “It’s a service that you do for your town, and it turns out to be how your town is thought of when people visit your court, either to observe it, or to be part of a session.” Of the late night calls for arraignment, he went on, “It’s a matter of conscience: You say, ‘Of course, officer. Give me 20 minutes to get my eyes open and my body ready, and I’ll be there.’”

As he moves on to retirement, La Plante is unsure of how he will spend his time.

“That scares me to death,” he said. “I’ve never been unemployed, so I’m anxious about that.”

He will be spending time with his wife of 55 years, Gail La Plante, who used to help him part-time from home, and began working full-time as his court clerk when she retired from her job in 1993.

To his successors, La Plante offered the following advice: “Be who you are.”

“The town elected you for your capabilities and your intellect, to carry on,” he said, addressing judges Gregory Bischoff, who was elected this past November, and Timothy Miller, who was elected the previous year.

“I look forward to the future of this town, because there are so many good people here, and so many willing to extend themselves to make this town better,” La Plante concluded. “We have a great deal of talent in this town, and that’s why I can leave with a great deal of confidence that the beat will go on.”

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The open house to honor La Plante’s career will take place this Sunday, Jan. 8, from 2 to 4 p.m. at Town Hall. Refreshments will be provided.

— By Zach Simeone


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