Friday, November 1, 2002
Buonomo and Lambert vie for register of probate
As in most election years, the race for Middlesex County Register of Probate has taken a distant back seat to the more politically significant and politically charged campaigns. This year the incumbent, John R. Buonomo (D-Somerville), is being challenged by John W. Lambert (R-Shrewsbury).
A non-scientific poll suggests that few voters know the candidates or what the register of probate does. According to the Massachusetts League of Women Voters website (www.lwv.org), a register of probate is elected in each of the Commonwealth's 14 counties for a term of six years. The incumbent is responsible for the operations of the Probate and Family Court of Middlesex County, and supervises the maintenance of records and execution of court rules for probate court, wills, divorce actions, child custody, adoptions, paternity and certain bankruptcy cases. The position currently carries an annual salary of $88,677.
"At least at one time in their life, all people pass through the offices [of the court]," says Lambert.
John Buonomo, incumbent
Buonomo was elected to the office two years ago to complete an unexpired term. He served as county administrator from 1986 to 1991, and was the first executive director of the Massachusetts One-Stop Career Center from 1995 to 2000.
In a telephone interview, Buonomo outlined his goals for the next term:
1. Build a new courthouse. Currently there are five court houses in the county, two in Cambridge, and one in Concord, Marlborough, and Lowell. Buonomo has already identified a site in Waltham where he proposes to consolidate all court services. Asked how he plans to finance the purchase and construction, he points out that the state approved $710 million in bonds in 1999 for the construction and renovation of courts in Massachusetts, and Middlesex is on the list.
2. Implement a Pro Se litigation department. "Over 35-40% of people passing through the court don't have legal representation, usually because they can't afford it," he says. He would like to establish a group of four to five coordinators who can assist applicants in preparing documents. This would benefit the public and also make the process run more smoothly, he says. The court has 28 unfilled vacant positions, most of which he does not intend to replace, so hiring four or five individuals should not be problem.
3. Make all public documents available via the Internet.
4. Alternative dispute resolution screening. Buonomo hopes to train current staff to screen applicants and explore alternatives to court actions.
John Lambert, challenger
Lambert retired in 1996 from a twenty-year career in the Navy, where he was the leading petty officer in five of his seven commands. He is a single father of three children, ages 16, 19 and 22. Lambert immediately mentions, with pride, that his mother Donna Lambert served as Middlesex County Register of Probate from 1990 to 1996. He lists his goals, as follows:
1. Build a new building for the probate court. The current building is over 100 years old and can't handle the volume of business. "A feasibility study [for a new courthouse] was done by my mother," Lambert says, "and I don't want it droppedThere is lots of [state-owned] land sitting idle, including a closed state hospital."
2. Implement security necklaces. Lambert would like the office to issue "security necklaces" to persons taking out a restraining order that would permit them to make an instant call for help in cases of extreme danger.
3. More computers for the departments.
And about the opponent
Asked to comment on their opponent's goals and promises, the candidates were not reluctant. "The necklaces and wrist bands are not my job," says Buonomo. "They are a job for the police." Says Lambert about Buonomo, "He hasn't done anything in two years."
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito