The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 3, 2000


Three-way race for register of probate

Incumbent Lee Johnson, an appointed Republican, is facing Democrat John Buonomo and unenrolled candidate Diane Poulus Harpell in a race for the Middlesex County Register of Probate, an $88,000-a-year job most voters would be hard-pressed to define. Briefly, the register administers the staff for the Probate and Family Court which deals with matters such as divorce, paternity, child support, adoption, abuse prevention, and wills for residents in the state's largest county, comprised of 54 towns.

The successful candidate will serve the two years remaining on the six-year term of Democrat Robert Antonelli who was removed by the Supreme Court for mistreating employees and abusing his authority. Johnson was appointed by Governor Paul Cellucci to fill the seat through January.

John Buonomo, Democrat

Buonomo, a Somerville resident who was declared the winner of the Democratic Primary after a recount, has a bachelor's in education from UMass and a master's in public administration from Northeastern. He has been elected and served on the Somerville School committee, Somerville Board of Alderman and as a Middlesex County Charter Commissioner. His professional experience includes various administrative positions in the Middlesex County Commissioners' office from 1983-91, positions in the state as executive director of One-Stop Career Center office and most recently, metro north area director for the division of employment and training.

In his campaign literature, Buonomo states, "I will improve the present antiquated Probate and Family court by simplifying forms and shortening and eliminating the unnecessary red tape that presently clogs the probate system. I will particularly focus on improved and expanded access to alternative dispute resolution and centralized court documents in order to make Probate and Family Court both state of the art and user friendly."

Incumbent Lee Johnson, Republican

Johnson, a Medford resident, has a bachelor's degree in sociology from UMass and a jurisdoctorate in law from the New England School of Law. Prior to his appointment 13 months ago, Johnson was a practicing attorney for 12 years, a probation officer for the Middlesex Superior Court for 11 years, and previously a teacher and administrator in the Suffolk County Sheriff's office.

In a telephone interview, Johnson said he has gained experience in the last 13 months overseeing the county court's $4.8 million budget and 127 employees. He said he brought in 17 new computers, microfilm scanning to provide backup files, created a new department to expedite court cases and implemented policies to track and protect documents. Furthermore, Johnson stated that he brings a "knowledge of the court. It's more than an administrative job, it takes somebody who knows the law. You want lawyers and judges to feel comfortable that you understand proceedings."

Diane Poulus Harpell, Independent

Harpell, who sought this position in 1996 but was defeated in a crowded Democratic primary, is running this time as an unenrolled candidate. Harpell has an associate's degree from Mass Bay Community College, a bachelor's in English and secondary education and master's in public administration from Suffolk University. Harpell worked as secretary to the late Paul Tsongas when he served as commissioner in the mid-70s. In her ten years with the county, Harpell worked as an executive assistant to the purchasing and personnel directors, which required extensive interaction with the court system. For the last 22 years, Harpell has owned and operated a real estate office in Cambridge. An Acton resident, she is a commissioner of the Acton Housing Authority.

Harpell explained that she is running as an independent because there's "no way we [suburban candidates] can win from our small population base in a primary against someone from a big city." She pointed out that she grew up around here, graduated from Lincoln-Sudbury High School, and wants to represent this area. "I'm a business woman that's looking to serve these towns. I'm capable of managing. I'm an administrator."

2000 The Carlisle Mosquito