Both candidates in the race for suburban Johnstown’s district judge say their experience makes the difference.
Susan Gindlesperger, 60, cites 39 years of working in magisterial court, while Max Pavlovich, 26, says his real-world experience gives him the edge.
The two are running for the seat currently held by retiring District Judge John Barron.
Magisterial District 47-1-02 covers most of the East Hills and West Hills areas adjacent the city. It includes most of Richland Township, along with all of Ferndale, Geistown, Scalp Level, Southmont and Westmont boroughs and Stonycreek and Upper Yoder Townships.
Both candidates cross-filed in the May primary. Gindlesperger won the Democratic nod and Pavlovich led the Republican ballot. They emerged from a field of six primary candidates that included three local attorneys.
Gindlesperger has been working in magisterial district offices since she graduated from Bishop McCort High School.
Pavlovich, son of former longtime District Judge Max Pavlovich, is a graduate of Pitt-Johnstown. He is a legal assistant at the Johnstown office of attorney John Kuzmiak. Former jobs include construction work, legislative assistant for state Rep. Carl Metzgar, R-Berlin, and counselor with Johnstown’s Summer in the City program.
Gindlesperger was first hired by Julia Rozum when the office was known as district justice.
“She was my mentor,” Gindlesperger said.
“She taught me so much. She always said if you work hard, maybe you could hold this office.”
Rozum showed Gindlesperger the criminal and traffic codes books and encouraged her to study them so she’d be familiar with the court’s work.
Rozum was chairwoman of the state’s minor judiciary education board, which trains new district judges.
“She would go and teach new justices to be certified,” Gindlesperger said. “I’d prepare her exhibits and examples of all the procedures. I really learned so much from her.”
In the past, Gindlesperger and others on the court staff would type criminal complaints for police, even giving some tips to new officers, she said. And Rozum would have her sit in during hearings to take notes.
She continued in the same district office for 39 years, through several district realignments. She worked for Rozum until she retired in 2002, and continued under Leonard Grecek, who retired as district judge in 2015. Gindlesperger was office manager for 29 years.
Gindlesperger was interviewed in her office at Allegheny Field Services and Consulting, 629 Elder St., Johnstown.
Since resigning from Grecek’s office in anticipation of her run for office, she has served as controller at the company her husband, Dean, co-owns with Andrew Stager.
“I always wanted to run for office,” she said. “I was waiting for the right time to do that.”
She said she always expected to run for the district judge seat formerly held by Pavlovich’s father. She was waiting for the elder Max Pavlovich to reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. That happened in 2015, but that was when census-directed district realignment eliminated two district judge seats, including Pavlovich’s.
Candidate Max Pavlovich insists he’s not running on his father’s name.
“I’m sure there are some people who think that, but you just can’t listen to them,” he said at Kuzmiak’s office. “You have to tell them about your experience and your willingness to work with police and the district attorney.”
Pavlovich said his work with Summer in the City showed him some of the issues facing young people.
“I got to know a lot of kids, and they’d open up about the troubles they have at home,” he said. “It kind of changed how I think today.”
Running Metzgar’s Windber office brought him into contact with a wide range of residents and businesses, he added.
He said he wants to make the district court run efficiently.
“I want it to be a place where people aren’t afraid to come,” he said. “A place where they can have their cases heard without fear.”