Magistrates honor one of their own
Friday was a special day in Middlebourne as the Magistrates Office hosted a retirement dinner and celebration at the Methodist Church fellowship hall for longtime Magistrate John E. Roberts.
Roberts, who recently retired after serving 26 years and two weeks, attributed his success and longevity in the position to his ability to being fair and honest.
A tribute to being a quality person was evident in the turnout of not only his fellow workers, but magistrates from Wetzel County as well. Several lawyers who have worked with Roberts throughout the years and many of the local law enforcement officers from the area were also present. Most all of the county employees, along with many friends and family, were there to share in the occasion.
Roberts, who started his career as County Magistrate at the age of 52, spoke about the approach he took on every case which came across his desk. “Be fair, treat everyone with respect-whether it’s family, friend, or stranger-stick to the letter of the law,” he said.
Roberts said he “realized early on that everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect, but everyone should learn from those errors of life.” He said being a Democrat in a highly Republican county was not an obstacle to him. “It became an inside joke, and many wondered how does he keep getting elected.” He said it was his reputation of being fair and just. “People look at that and remember,” he noted.
Roberts, who is 78 years young, said he looks forward to working the garden, taking life easy, and watching the kids run the farm. When asked by someone how his wife liked having him home, he said she’s glad to have him. Someone in the back jokingly then yelled, “Just wait a few weeks!” That brought a laugh from the crowd.
Roberts introduced his replacement, Mary Dotson. She has been an assistant in the office for many years and was able to step right in and take over. A delight to Roberts was the replacement of Dotson with his own granddaughter, Toni VanCamp.
One of the special parts of any retirement dinner, of course, is the food and this one didn’t disappoint. Guests were provided with a buffet-style lunch consisting of several different soups, sandwiches, and desserts. The retirement cake was of course the hit of the meal.
Those in attendance were given an opportunity to say something special they remembered about there experience with Roberts. First to speak was local attorney Roger Weese who said he had known Roberts most of his life. He said, “On one occasion, as a boy, my granddad took me to work on John’s farm. We were going to build something and we dug a footer and were getting ready to lay blocks and there were some bricks, I asked what are we building and Mr. Roberts said, ‘Well I always wanted a brick ____house,” he then asked, “Is it still standing?” Roberts verified it was. Weese said he has truly enjoyed working with Roberts throughout the years, not only professionally but also as a neighbor and friend.
Sistersville Chief of Police Rob Haught told about the time as a new officer when he brought someone in late at night on a charge of driving under the influence. “Back then the magistrate would come out late and sign the paperwork,” noted Haught. He said Roberts was called out and when he came they took the man’s name and signed the papers. He was taken to the county jail until the next morning. Later he said a women from Pennsylvania called and wanted to know if they had her husband in jail. He said, “She gave me his name and I said no the only one I have has a different name. She then said, ‘Well that is the name of my husband’s brother.'” Haught said the next morning they brought the man to the office and Roberts said he would receive a fine and 48 hours in jail. The man said he would pay the fine and serve the time and signed the paperwork. As they were leading him out to go back to jail, Roberts turned and said, “When he is released, bring him back so I can give him an additional 30 days for lying to the court.” Roberts again stressed honesty is always the best answer.
Fellow Magistrate Michael Griffin said it has been a pleasure to work with Roberts. He said they always worked together and covered for each other when needed. “If there was ever a question-if I needed help or he needed help, we were there for each other,” said Griffin. He added that Roberts always worked with integrity. “He was someone you could depend on and I’m happy to have had the opportunity to work side by side with him and he will surely be missed,” said Griffin. “I wish him the best in his retirement.”
Many gifts and cards were given to Roberts on Friday and he responded with much emotion in his voice and heart as he expressed appreciation to all.
Roberts and his wife of soon-to-be 50 years have raised six children and have five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. They attend Lazear Chapel Methodist Church on Elk Fork where Roberts is the worship leader. He said his mother started taking him there as a baby and it’s the only church to which he has ever belonged.
Roberts received special recognition on Friday from the West Virginia Supreme Court in the form of a framed plague, honoring him for his service as magistrate in Tyler County. He also was presented a plaque from the magistrates office for 26 years service.