04/03/07 — Gonzalez takes on position as county magistrate judge

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Gonzalez takes on position as county magistrate judge

By Lee Williams
Published in News on April 3, 2007 1:54 PM

The leader of the Hispanic Cultural Center and the chairman of the Wayne County Democratic Party is taking on a new role.

Gaspar R. Gonzalez, 74, of Goldsboro, has been tapped to join the ranks at the Wayne County Magistrate's Office, Wayne County Clerk of Superior Court Pam Minshew said.

Magistrate judges set bond for those who are arrested and charged, issue arrest and search warrants, conduct weddings and hold Small Claims Court. The office is located near the Wayne County Jail.

Mrs. Minshew said Gonzalez will be a positive asset to the magistrate's office. His fluent Spanish-speaking skills will also greatly serve Hispanic residents who visit the office for official business, she added.

Gonzalez has been on the job for less than a month, but his presence has already generated positive feedback from the community, Mrs. Minshew said. She said she received at least one phone call from a resident who said she was thrilled that Gonzalez had been appointed.

Superior Court Judge Jerry Braswell hired Gonzalez to serve in the position that comes with a starting salary of $30,320. Magistrates are initially appointed for two-year terms. All additional terms are four years.

Gonzalez said he is also thrilled to join the state-run office. He said his goal is to serve others -- in any capacity.

"If there's anything that I can do to help the community, I'm more than willing to help," he said.

Magistrates are expected to have at least eight years experience as a clerk of superior court; a four-year degree from an accredited college or university or a two-year associate degree and four years of experience in teaching, social services, law enforcement, arbitration or mediation, the court system or counseling.

Gonzalez, a retired U.S. Army soldier and former POW, brings a wealth of experience and accomplishments to the post. He is a former employee of Eastpointe and the Employment Securities Commission, just to name a few.

"I have retired four times," he said.

Gonzalez has also received The Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which is the highest civilian honor one can receive from the Governor's Office. The award is granted to those who provide 30 years of service to the state.

Gonzalez periodically volunteered as a Spanish translator at the magistrate's office, so he decided to apply for a judge position in September. Several months had passed and his hopes of earning a slot were all but dashed until he recently received word about the job.

Gonzalez said he will continue to chair the Hispanic Cultural Center, but he will step down as chairman of the Democratic Party on April 14.

He said his skills and qualifications are what won him the job and not his political affiliations.

Mrs. Minshew agrees.

"This is not a political favor," Gonzalez said. "Everything I have earned, I've earned on my own merit. I don't have this job because I asked for it. I submitted my application and my qualifications got me the job."

Gonzalez, a New York native, said he hopes to build a bridge between people and government. He added he plans to serve all people equally.

"I'm not only serving the Hispanic community," he said. "I'm here to serve everyone. I'm an American."

Gonzalez was chosen to replace Magistrate Judge James Myles, sources say. Braswell was unavailable to comment on the reported staff change.

Gonzalez is the second magistrate hired this year. Gary Laws was tapped earlier this year to replace Magistrate Judge Terry Hatch.

Nine judges serve in the magistrate's office.

Five judges, including Cynthia Howard, Bill Buchanan, Bonnie Hill, Melinda Jordan and Larry Riggle were the only magistrates reappointed by Braswell. Braswell did not reappoint Hatch, Myles, Patricia Williams and R. Allen Jones, officials said.

Judges who are not resworn are placed in holdover status and remain in the position until they are replaced, officials said.

Mrs. Minshew nominates the magistrate judges. Braswell hires and fires and District Court Judge Joe Setzer supervises the judges.

Mrs. Minshew said she nominated James Myles, Cynthia Howard, Bill Buchanan, Bonnie Hill, Melinda Jordan and Larry Riggle and Patricia Williams.

She said she did not nominate Hatch and Jones and added the men also were not nominated last year by her predecessor, Marshall Minchew.