Though none of us are exactly sure how we will do it, statewide primary elections have at least been pushed to June 9 in West Virginia. Additionally, West Virginia Secretary of State’s Office (Mac Warner) is allowing ALL West Virginians to vote absentee (find out more right here).
And while there will be no shortage of candidates to choose from across myriad races, we thought we’d take a snapshot here of one local race, Jefferson County Magistrate, and pick the brains of some of the candidates vying for the position—though all candidates for magistrate and other Jefferson County offices can be found here.
Ultimately, magistrates work under the administrative supervision of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia and have jurisdiction over civil cases in which the financial amount in dispute is less than ten thousand dollars. They also hear misdemeanor cases and conduct preliminary examinations in felony cases. Additionally, magistrates are involved in arraignments, setting bonds, issuing emergency protection orders, as well as complaints and arrest warrants in criminal cases, and more.
Arthena Roper (pictured above) currently occupies the office of Jefferson County Magistrate, representing Division 3. She spent 15 years in the Jefferson County Schools system as a cultural diversity facilitator—as well as a member of the Jefferson County Board of Education for one year—before she replaced Magistrate Mary Paul Rissler, who retired on November 29, 2019.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoy serving as a magistrate thus far, and I hope to build upon the transparent, positive, and serious manner in which I represent the court system to defendants, law enforcement, and the community,” she said, adding that she feels her resume uniquely qualifies her for reappointment. “I am currently doing the judicial work of a magistrate. I also have three master’s degrees of which each provides me with a skill-set that assists me in executing judicial work. A magistrate is a public servant. I have worked in public service for more than twenty-five years. I also have a unique history of positively relating to people of diverse backgrounds. My fundamental values are those of fairness and high integrity.”
Roper does see a need for change, however, within the office she currently holds. “I believe the West Virginia Supreme Court can improve on the magistrate-level process of handling citations,” she said. “I believe we can process citations in a more convenient manner, respecting the time of the court and the citation holders. I am communicating with key decision makers at the Supreme Court to hopefully assist in improving citation procedures.”
Also aiming to represent Division 3 in the race is Osmund A. Anderson, the son of a Pentecostal preacher raised in Southeast Washington, D.C. Presently pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in social work, Anderson is a retired U.S. Army sergeant who is determined to keep the community safe by enforcing the laws.
“My goal is to ensure the administration of the law equitably and help bring closure for the victims,” he assured, noting that his strong leadership skills and military background distinguish him among the candidates. “If elected, I will be the type of magistrate that ensures that justification and justice is served to both the victim and the offender.”
Anderson will also pay particular attention to young people. “This is why social awareness is key to understanding the environment in which we live,” he said. “What we do with social programs will keep our youth off the streets and help some from getting caught up. We must evolve ourselves in the well-being of families to eliminate or detect mental imbalance that could be caught before it escalates into violence.”
Rounding out Division 3, schoolteacher Holly Silveous feels that she is continuously adapting to the rapid changes taking place in our society. As an example, she has joined with other area teachers during the corona pandemic in riding through pupils’ neighborhoods and waving safely from cars in order to spread joy.
A lifelong area resident, and consummate professional, Silveous attended Jefferson County Schools and received the McCormick Scholarship, eventually attaining her bachelor’s degree from then-Shepherd College. While in school, she also worked in the Jefferson County Magistrate Court, as well as for local attorneys.
“I grew up with the same core values—that the people of Jefferson County deserve a fair-minded, no-nonsense magistrate who also has compassion for those who need it,” she said. “I have honed these skills over the years teaching your children in our county schools and by owning a local franchise that many of you frequent with your families. When it comes down to it, I am a piece of all of you.”
Silveous believes that whether someone is a parent who wants the best for their child or a senior who just moved to the area for the spectacular views, everyone needs a magistrate that will be independent of outside influences, but also connected to the community and committed to put it first.
Carmela Cesare will represent Division 1 if elected, and desires to keep the courtroom a place where the law is accurately, impartially, and fairly applied absent personal agenda or opinion. “I want to ensure that all persons who enter the courtroom whether as a party, lawyer, court personnel, or any other person who may be present and connected to a particular matter feel welcome and respected,” she indicated. “Our courts are open to the public and the public should always feel welcome to politely participate.”
Cesare graduated from WVU School of Law in 1993, and has since lived in Jefferson County for 27 years with her husband and three children. Upon graduating from law school, she started her legal career with the Public Defender Corporation for the 23rd District of West Virginia, and then transitioned into private practice. “I started my own law firm in 1998, and continued my criminal practice in both state and federal court,” she said. “Because I have always been drawn to public service, I continued taking criminal court appointments for indigent persons as well as abuse and neglect cases. In 2009, I joined the Berkeley County Prosecuting Attorney’s office, where I tried many felony cases.”
In 2015, Cesare obtained a master’s degree in therapeutic herbalism at the Maryland University of Integrative Health. “I left the prosecutor’s office and co-opened a small business in Shepherdstown called Tonic,” she pointed out. “While starting up this small business during the last few years, I also continued to take cases in family court as a Guardian Ad Litem, which is the voice of the children in contested custody cases.”
As for her qualifications for magistrate, Cesare underscored, “My many years of litigation experience has exposed me to a variety of judges and their courtrooms. For that reason, I know what a good judge and a well-run courtroom looks like. I have seen that a good judge reads and applies the law accurately. I am uniquely qualified for this position because I am the only candidate with legal experience. I have also seen that a good judge is one that embodies the qualities of patience, decorum, and courtesy, and understands that he/she must listen to the evidence presented by both parties and do it in a way that is respectful and genuinely considerate. My having practiced as both prosecution and defense gives me the unique perspective of having insight into both parties’ point of view.”
Competing with Cesare in Division 1 is Danesia Chicchirichi, who lives in Charles Town with her husband and two children. A Jefferson County resident for over 20 years, Chicchirichi has been the Senior Bail Agent (Bail bondsman) for Weatherholtz Bonding for over 16 years. Her “day job” involves being the community liaison for a local non-profit agency, while she also enjoys being an active volunteer with the local parks and recreation, girl scouts, and downtown events in both Charles Town and Ranson.
“I feel that my years of bail bondsman experience has been an invaluable education,” she stressed. “A bondsman has to vet out a prospective defendant, use sound judgment, and assess the risk. It’s also a twenty-four-seven job. Being involved in the courts for over sixteen years handling bonds that range from minor theft, DUIs, drug charges, battery, and so forth gives me insight into the multitude of various cases that are brought in front of the magistrate. It is of the utmost importance to me that people are treated fairly and impartially. My opinion is that a magistrate is ‘the people’s judge,’ and I feel I have the common sense, fairness, and impartiality necessary to be a magistrate.”
Chicchirichi is a firm believer that if people in tough situations are given the right resources, they may be able to get back on the right path. “To err is human, and sometimes we tend to lose sight of that. I have a quote that resonates with me: ‘Never look down on anybody, unless you are helping them up.’”
For more information on Jefferson County government, click here.By Staff Contributor