Webby said it had always been his dream to attain the rank of judge, but knew he had to gain some courtroom experience first. He said there had been discussions with his family more than a year before the election, when 40 year judge Ronald Swank announced his retirement.
“I said I would never run against Ron Swank” recalled Webby, referring to the longest serving magisterial judge in the state of PA who retired last year. “I had to put my time in, and when he was ready, then I would run.”
Webby announced his candidacy the day after the 2016 Presidential election –the first day allowed by law. From there, he said it was “full steam ahead” –a hectic process he calls “grueling but good”. Legally, he has been certified to serve as a magistrate since he passed the bar exam in 1980, but there was still the myriad of documents, with just as many deadlines, to be filed with the Elections Office. All candidates running for magistrate were allowed to cross-file on both party tickets, given that judges are to be fair and impartial in all cases, regardless of party affiliation.
“Full steam ahead” turned into “whirlwind” as Webby and his family divided the tasks involved in running a campaign among them.
“My oldest daughter grew to be a lawyer, my middle daughter, a math teacher and my youngest, a graphic designer -put them together and you have a campaign committee,” explained Webby who, while joking, expressed a gratefulness and admiration for his family. “We got a game plan and somehow we looked like we knew what we were doing. My family is amazing”
The Slocum Twp. resident focused on running a personal and positive campaign and began knocking on doors in February; continuing every night for the next three months, right up until 7pm the night before the polls opened. While acknowledging that the process had been exhausting and challenging, Webby affirmed that the campaign process had taught him a great deal, especially when his commitment to running a positive campaign was tested.
“In meeting all those people and talking to them, I learned that there are a lot of good people in the Mountaintop region,” said Webby. He then added with a laugh, “I also learned that Mountaintop was really big with a lot of dirt roads.”
Most people would think that the nerves would plague a candidate from the moment he or she awoke on Election Day, but Webby said he wasn’t at all nervous while visiting all the polls that day. It wasn’t until the polls closed that he likened the process to having a jury out on a case –when the attorney’s know the jury has reached a verdict, but it has yet to be announced to the court.
“I wasn’t nervous until I walked into the hall at St. Mary’s and all those people were there; then it was nerve wracking. The numbers were trickling in and we were trying to figure it out,” related Webby. He continued to say, “I had a good
feeling. I had good position on the ballot, good responses on the road and a good team. We ran a very personal campaign.”
Webby now has a 6-year term at a salary of $89,438/year and will hear cases at the Wright Township Municipal Building from the seven municipalities that elected him. A private attorney who also has served part time as a public defender, Webby pointed out his courtroom experience will be invaluable in how he approaches this new chapter of his career, and he is clearly anxious to get started. He promises to be available 24/7 for police officers and the community, and he has begun the gradual process of closing his private practice. He is already doing some preliminary work on initiatives he wants to see in place during his term, such as grade school education on drugs and alcohol much like the heroin taskforce he was part of years ago.
“We had a team and we’d play basketball with the kids and then talk to them about drugs and alcohol,” explained Webby. “The program was before it’s time –we didn’t have a heroin epidemic then, but now there are 100 people per day who overdose on opioids. We have to get back in there and talk to these kids.”
Webby also noted that student education was only the first in a three-step process to helping people prevent or recover from addiction. He plans to use every means at his disposal as district magistrate to ease the destruction that opioid addiction causes people’s lives. In addition to education, Webby believes that treatment referral is a big piece of the puzzle, as is prosecution and enforcement.
“In six years I don’t want to hear the word ‘epidemic’ in Mountaintop,” said a very emphatic Webby. “We’re going to have problems but I don’t want to hear ‘epidemic’.”
“I want to help people turn their lives around. I want a former addict in 6 years telling me they’re a manager somewhere. I want to hear a 4th grader come up to me and tell me that something I said stopped him or her from accepting a drug from a friend. “
“I don’t want to wait until January,” concluded Webby. “I Want to do it now.”
Webby remarked he is extremely grateful to his family and his supporters, especially those who put their trust in him with their vote, and he wants them to know he takes his new responsibility very seriously.
“This seat is not a seat of power, but a seat of service,” emphasized Webby. “Over 1400 times, somebody pushed that button -they put their trust in me. The voters are my employer and I am their servant. That’s how it should be.”