Editor's Note: This week, The Cortland Voice is publishing interviews with political candidates vying for office ahead of the upcoming Sept. 12 primary.
David Alexander, whose term as Cortlandville Town Justice is set to expire, is seeking a Cortland County Judge seat left vacant by Judge William Ames, who is retiring.
What made you decide to step down as Cortlandville Town Justice and campaign for Cortland County Judge?
When I was growing up on our family farm in Cortlandville, I never imagined that one day I would be elected as Cortlandville Town Justice – and it certainly never crossed my mind that I’d ever run for Cortland County Judge. But life takes you on the journeys it does for a reason – and I couldn’t have asked for things to turn out better.
I have been honored to serve our community as an attorney and as Cortlandville Town Justice. It provides countless opportunities for me to give back to the area I care so deeply about, and to have a positive impact on the lives of so many Cortland County families.
I’m not actually stepping down as Cortlandville Town Justice, as my initial four year term simply expires at the end of this year. The opening for election as Cortland County Judge presents a well-timed opportunity for me to apply my legal and judicial experience in Family Court, Justice Court and Surrogate’s Court – the three courts in which I appear almost daily, to work for all of the people of Cortland County.
What can you bring to this position? What experience do you have?
I’m a lifelong resident of Cortland County – born at Cortland Memorial Hospital, a graduate of McGraw schools, a longtime farmer in Cortlandville, an immensely proud father of four great kids who graduated from Homer schools, and now serving as Town Justice in Cortlandville and an attorney in private practice in Cortland. I went to SUNY Morrisville and Cornell University in our neighboring counties soon after graduating from high school.
To be honest, I never thought that a guy like me could be an attorney. I was a farm boy at heart; and although my parents would provide me with the opportunity for college, I felt that law school would probably always be beyond my reach. Well, when I was almost 40 years old, things changed a lot. After a lifetime on the farm, I was accepted into law school and studied to become an attorney. To say it was a challenge is an understatement. Carol and I had three young children and one on the way, a still-active farm and a pile of bills every month. But our family stuck together and, thanks to the heroic efforts of my wife, Carol, we persevered – and in 1996, I passed the New York State Bar Exam and in 1997 took my oath as an attorney.
After a few years working at larger law firms around the area, I chose to open my own legal practice in Cortland – right where I wanted to be. Since then, I’ve spent the last 20 years working for individuals and families in our community when they face legal issues. During that time, I’ve represented private clients; along with serving as an Attorney for Children, as the Attorney for the Area Agency on Aging, and as a prosecutor with the County Attorney’s Office. I also worked for a time in the Cortland County Public Defender’s Office, serving as a defense attorney in the courtroom.
Then in 2013, the opportunity arose to run for Cortlandville Town Justice. I ran in the Republican Primary and was humbled and honored to have been elected by a wide margin. I take the Town Justice job seriously and work hard at it every single day.
Why should voters care about judicial elections?
Cortland County Court serves our citizens during some of the most turbulent times in their lives. It's vital that they come before an experienced and fair judge who is compassionate and objective. The duties of a County Judge aren’t something that can be learned overnight.
The reason I love being a judge is simple: I can provide the opportunity to assist folks in fixing the issues that may be disrupting their lives, to provide structure in order to address those tough challenges, and to allow them to move on to living better lives. I believe that it’s what we all want.
What are the major influences in your life? Why?
My mother and father have had the greatest influence on my early life and formative years. They taught me the value of hard work and using common sense. Growing up, I didn’t envision that I could or would ever be an attorney or judge. During my school years in McGraw, I didn’t realistically see anything else in my future but taking over the family farm. Going back to my first memories, I recall long hours and hard work with my Mom, Dad, grandparents and two brothers.
Working on the farm was rewarding, but it wasn’t always easy. I’m grateful that it taught me that there’s no substitute for hard work – and that sometimes a little common sense matters more than the accumulation of awards, certificates or advanced degrees. My mom and dad drove those values into our heads and hearts at a young age.
After my father passed away in 1980, I took over management of the farm and milked 105 cows and cropped 400 acres of corn, clover hay, barley and rye. Our labor force consisted of one employee (besides me) and immediate family. A sixteen-year tenure on a dairy and crop farm involves a ton of work. My wife, Carol, and I raised three of our four children working on that farm and, looking back, I wouldn’t change a thing.
Most importantly, I am extremely fortunate to have married well. I firmly believe that my life began on the day my wife, Carol and I were married. My wife’s exceptional commitment to family, to duty and to personal integrity have been a constant inspiration to me for forty years.
Who are your judicial role models? Why?
I have admired our present County Court Judges. William F. Ames is a fair minded Judge who listens carefully and considers everyone’s positions fully in making his decisions. Judge Julie A. Campbell is a thorough, knowledgeable Judge consistently holding to the highest legal and ethical standards every day. I also admired Judge Emerson R Avery, Jr. as a dedicated Judge who always strived to perform at 110% of capacity, and who was taken from far us too soon. Our family was honored when our youngest son, Even was presented, upon his graduation from Homer High School with the Emerson R. Avery scholarship for exemplifying the character of Judge Avery. I would be honored to be remembered in a similar vein.