Community honors retired judge with flowers and poetry | PostIndependent.com
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Community honors retired judge with flowers and poetry

Greg Mass
Post Independent Photo/Kara K. Pearson Retired Judge Thomas Assala greets Hugh Warder at his retirement party at the Glenwood Springs Community Center Friday evening. Assala was celebrating his 28 year career.
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Dozens of family members, friends and co-workers converged on the Glenwood Springs Community Center to celebrate the career of Chief 9th District Judge Thomas Ossola. Ossola, who greeted people as they walked in for his retirement party, said his 28 1/2 years on the bench went by amazingly quickly.”There’s a very unreal quality to it,” he said. “Twenty-eight-and-a-half years seems like a long time, but from my perspective, it’s just a blink of the eye.”Ossola said he plans to travel, do private legal mediations and participate in the state’s senior judge program during his retirement. In the senior judge program, retired judges make themselves available for 60 days a year – or five days a month – to fill in for other judges throughout the state who are on vacation or on leave. At his retirement, Ossola served as water judge for Water Division No. 5, and since 1991 he had continuously served as chief judge for the 9th Judicial District. His responsibilities as chief judge included administrative work involving the district’s budget, personnel management, oversight of court buildings, assignment of cases and county court supervision. He also handles his usual caseload.

Ossola’s successor as chief judge, T. Peter Craven, shared some thoughts on the retirement of his friend and colleague:”He has devoted his adult life to public service and efficient running of the courts,” Craven said. “He left the 9th District courts as an efficient, smooth-running organization.”Craven said he’s happy for his friend and that “he deserves every minute of his retirement.””We worked really closely together as friends and colleagues, and I’m certainly going to miss his counsel and support,” Craven said. Jim Bradford, clerk of the combined courts for Garfield County, said it was Ossola who gave him the shot to become clerk of the courts. “When I first started, I was nervous, but he really made me feel comfortable. His door was always open,” Bradford recalled. “With his administrative knowledge and his knowledge of the whole thing, he’s certainly going to be missed.”Darlene Larson, Ossola’s judicial assistant for the past seven years, said Ossola was a great judge.

“The district was lucky to have him. I’ve worked with him for seven years and I’ve learned so much from him,” Larson said. Suzan Lakin, a court clerk who has worked with Ossola for several years at the Garfield County Courthouse, said Ossola was always there when help was needed. She remembered a time when the clerk’s office was short-staffed. “One time he came down and answered the phones with me,” she said. “He was really, really helpful to the people who called.”Other guests in attendance at the party traveled from Salt Lake City, San Francisco, and Ossola’s daughter Rachel Ossola traveled all the way from Washington, D.C., to be with her dad at the big event. “I think it’s great, it’s exciting,” she said. Rachel also said she was glad because her dad should now have more time to travel and to see her. During the party, Ossola stood in front of the large crowd and thanked everyone who had helped make his career successful.

And to Judge Craven, he recalled a time during the Coal Seam Fire when the two were at incident meetings with law enforcement and all sorts of other people who had jackets denoting their lofty positions. He and Craven noticed they were the only ones without such jackets, so Ossola presented Craven with a jacket that said “CHIEF JUDGE” on the back in big, white letters. “Pete, I want you to wear it in good health,” he said. As the crowd cheered Ossola and he ended his remarks, he said, “I did not anticipate that my retirement would generate two bouquets of flowers and four poems.”Contact Greg Massé: 945-8515, ext. 511gmasse@postindependent.com


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