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Dick Costello

Dick Costello (R) is running for Lansing Town Justice.  Costello, who chairs the Lansing Republican Party, is a retired golf professional, coach, and teacher who managed Robert Trent Jones Golf Course and the golf program at Cornell University.  He is running on both the Republican and Independent Party lines.

"I think a judge should be in the people business.  Helping and running a court with integrity is what this is all about.  I want to be involved in the lives of people that have, perhaps, gone astray and that, perhaps, I can help.  From a judge's perspective helping is paramount.  Reprimanding someone has it's place for sure.  But to show empathy and understanding of the totality of the situation is something I'm pretty good at."

Born and raised in Waverly, NY, Costello served his PGA (Professional Golfers' Association) apprenticeship at a private country club in Waverly before he was recruited by Cornell University in 1973.  He was Assistant Golf and Teaching Professional when he began at Cornell.  In 1988 he was elected Central New York PGA Teacher of the Year.  In 1998 he was named Central New York Golf Pro of the year.  In 2010 he was inducted in the PGA Hall of Fame.  Additionally, Cornell named the second hole for him.  When he retired in 2000 he was the Director of Golf Operations and the men's golf coach.

"As a PGA golf professional at a major ivy league university I have had to deal with approximately 19,000 students, approximately 15,000 employees, and 18,000 area alumni... with one golf course," he says. "I would bring that experience to the bench."

For a few years after retiring from Cornell he taught golf for the City of Boca Raton, Florida, where his son is also a golf professional. But he says Lansing is his home, and he wants to serve this community.

The Lansing court has become busier in recent years to the point where town officials have been talking about the possibility of building a separate court entrance on the Town Hall, to physically separate the court from municipal operations.  When elected new judges receive training from New York State, but in anticipation of the election Costello has been taking advantage of Lansing Judge John Howell's invitation to observe his court, to prepare for the position.  He has also spoken to Tompkins County Sheriff Ken Lansing to learn more about the county jail and related topics.

"I don't have experience in court.  I have a lot of experience with people," he says. "I've been in the people business as a PGA golf professional my whole life.  I've counseled countless students who have serious personal problems such as parents getting divorced -- will there be money?  How do I handle this?  Will they be a phys-ed student or a member of my golf team, or just a student who plays the course a lot that I got to know?"

Costello says he favors programs like Tompkins County's 'Alternatives to Incarceration', preferring to make a first offender's court date a teaching opportunity.

"A good day in court for me would be to have that individual, upon leaving the courthouse, look at me and say, 'Judge, thanks for some leniency," he says. "I'm going to walk out that door seeing society in a completely different way, and try to be a wholesome citizen of this community.'  That would make my day in court.  There are a lot of cases where the taxpayers are funding a cell for room and board that is totally unnecessary.  Alternatives could and should be used for minor infractions.  If we go back to domestic abuse, abuse or alcohol and drugs, that's another conversation."

And a second court appearance would not go as well.  Costello says he would track his cases, and the consequences would be dire when a defendant appears for the same crime a second time.

Costello says he got the idea to run for justice years ago from Tompkins County Judge William C. Barrett. 

"I used to play golf with Bill, and one day he said, 'When you retire you should run for town justice.'  I looked at him and said, 'Why?'  And he said, 'because you know people.  You run this university golf course like the navy man you were, and the court system would flow well with you, too.  You should consider it.'"

More recently Costello says he has been strongly encouraged to run for by people like Barret, Former Congressman Jim Walsh, and Former Assemblyman Dan Fessenden.

"They've encouraged me strongly to run," he says.

If elected, Costello will take over for Town Justice David Banfield, who is retiring from the court at the end of this year.  Two Democrats are reportedly also collecting signatures to qualify to run for the position, but Costello says he is the man for the job.

"I can honestly say that I would do a good job," he says. "I've been involved in the people business.  I've been here 45 years-plus.  I know people and I have a clear understanding of people's minds in the sense that I had to deal with a lot of people's issues at my job at Cornell.  I want to be involved in the lives of people that have, perhaps, gone astray and that, perhaps, I can help.  From a judge's perspective helping is paramount.  Reprimanding someone has it's place for sure.  But to show empathy and understanding of the totality of the situation is something I'm pretty good at."

Petitions must be filed with the requisite number of qualifying signatures by July 12th in order for candidates to be placed on the ballot.

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