STOCKTON - It is hard to sum up 34 years of a person's life, especially when that person is Otis Barber, the former judge of the town of Stockton.
Barber said it all started in 1980 when he was asked by the Democratic Party to run for the town judge position, and for the first three terms he was a Democrat. He spent the rest of his time being a Republican.
"I really enjoyed being a judge right from the start," he said. "I got right into doing court cases right away."
Judge Otis Barber reflects on the last 34 years of being the town judge on his last night holding court in the Stockton Town Hall.
Photo by Jasmine Willis
Barber said at the time there were two judges in the town of Stockton and Judge Robert Burlingame showed him the ropes.
"He was my mentor," he said. "He was a Republican, I was a Democrat, but we worked together."
Barber spoke fondly of the four supervisors he has worked under.
"I have been treated really well by all four of the supervisors I have worked under," he said. "Dave Wilson (the current supervisor) is great to work with."
Over the decades technology and crime have changed.
"Drugs are more of an issue now, there is a lot of crime due to drugs," he said. "There are more domestic cases as well."
His wife volunteered the first 30 years to be his clerk; and only the last four years she has been paid to do it.
"I couldn't have done any of it without her," he said.
Barber said it used to be that a bunch of documents had to be done by hand, but now documents must be logged online, and transferred immediately to Albany.
"My wife is better at the technology than me," he said. "She likes and understands it."
Barber said he was glad when was his last night holding court.
"I am glad to be retiring," he said. "I feel a little possessive of the job since I have had it for so long, but I am really happy with Mark Cunningham being the new judge."
Barber had a chance to sit and talk with Judge-elect Cunningham and gave him a little advice.
"I told him to rely on training since you can learn a lot from it," he said. "I told him he can learn a lot from the Justice Resource Center judges and lawyers who can give him helpful advice."
In all these years no case really stands out in Barber's mind, but he never liked doing small claims or domestic cases.
"When the cases are over I like to think I have helped the defendant," he said. "I hope they walked away from court feeling like justice had been done."
Barber said he wants to stay involved in the community as he restarts civilian life.
"I really enjoy helping people," he said. "I would like to keep doing it on an individual basis."
Barber said he appreciated the support from the residents of Stockton.
"One on one encouragement is the key to working with people," he said. "I thank them for trusting me to be their town judge for so long."
Barber said he had times when the work load was hard to keep up with, but he never grew tired of the job. He said things got harder when he had to do the clerical work as well while his wife was doing her full-time job.
Barber said he believes Cunningham will be fine due to the fact he has already had experience in the court system.
"Cunningham has been coming to court almost every night since he got elected," he said. "Plus he was already very familiar with the court system."
When asked to sum up the last 34 years of his life as the judge of the town of Stockton he replied, "It was a very rewarding job."