OLEY >> District Judge Victor M. Frederick IV is not seeking reelection, clearing the way for four newcomers to compete for the office.
Matthew James, Steven Chieffo, David Krott and Daniel VanBilliard, are all seeking to take over the seat in the May 16 primary election.
District Court 23-3-03, located in Oley, covers the Alsace, Amity, District, Longswamp, Oley, Pike, Rockland and Ruscombmanor townships and the borough of Topton.
District judges serve a six-year term and are paid $88, 290 annually. Candidates can cross-file in both the Democratic and Republican primaries.
Matthew James, 45, of Ruscombmanor, is looking to bring his law experience to the table if he is elected to the position. James graduated from Albright College in 1994 and went on to receive a law degree from Penn State Dickinson Law in 1997. Afterward he went on to work as an assistant district attorney in Berks County as well as Ononeaga County in New York. He later worked for civil litigation firms in Philadelphia and New York as well as a litigation manager for an international insurance company.
“I live here. It’s my home, my children are growing up an going to school here,” said James about what he hopes to bring to the position. “I’m the only attorney who’s running for the position. I’m hoping my education will help me interpret the law and help me to not make haphazard rulings that will hurt the parties before me in either civil or criminal matters.”
James added that his experiences in court are what helped prompt his decision to run.
“I made the decision about running 20 years ago when I was an assistant D.A. in Berks county and I had a sexual abuse case involving a child and the ruling I got from the judge was just awful. Eventually we convicted the defendant but if it weren’t for what happened, that boy’s life would have been changed forever. I held that experience as a personal mission.”
Running also is Steven Chieffo, 48, of Birdsboro. Chieffo began his career in law enforcement at the age of 18. He attended the Reading Police Academy and subsequently became an officer in Oley Township. He was then hired as a part time officer for three other departments including Amity, Birdsboro and Temple borough. He was later hired by the Pottstown Police Department full time. While at Pottstown Police Department, Chieffo worked as an accident reconstructionist, a community policing officer and a certified motor carrier enforcement officer. He also served on the Attorney General Drug Task Force. In addition, Chieffo owns and operates All American Septic Service which serves Berks, Montgomery and Chester counties.
“Running for district justice is always something I thought of doing since I was a police officer. I’ve always appreciated the District Justice seat as a community position,” said Chieffo.
“I have literally been at the front doors of thousands of people’s homes, dealing with domestic and neighbor disputes to emergency service calls for sewage in people’s homes. I’ve seen a variety of situations and have the ability to listen to people,” he explained. “As a family man, I’m a strong community supporter with a great understanding of people’s needs and concerns. With all my experience, I think I would give a great balance on the bench.”
David Krott, 62, of Alsace, is another candidate who has seen many sides of the justice system. A graduate of Oley Valley High School, Krott currently works as a State Constable in addition to his 35 years in the construction business.
“I work with the courts in all facets including administration and cases that come across the bench,” said Krott. “I’ve seen how the system needs a fresh pair of eyes. I’ve seen pros and cons in the courtroom, justice not being served when it should be. I believe that I have what it takes to be fair, always.”
Krott added that if he is elected to the position, he hopes to serve citizens in the area with respect and fairness.
“My goal and mission as a district justice will be to ensure that the citizens of our district are treated with respect and fairness and, above all, protected from those who present a threat to the property, livelihood or wellbeing of our neighbors and friends. Like them, my tolerance is low for violent offenders. I will use the full authority of the office to make certain that justice is swift, consistent and always mindful of our quality of life,” said Krott.
Daniel VanBilliard, 47, of Longswamp Township, also plans to draw on his experience with the justice system if elected.
“Being the video conferencing supervisor gave me experience to work with every department in county and local and state police. Doing that for so long, understanding the law, working in the count court systems at every level for the last 15 years, it was at that point that I realized after so many years, the next logical step would be to work for the people instead of the jail. Now the time has presented itself,” said VanBilliard on why he decided to run.
Born and raised in Topton, VanBilliard is a graduate of Brandywine Heights High School and the Allentown Police Academy. VanBilliard has been employed with the Berks County Jail System for 18 years and currently serves as the disciplinary hearing examiner and video conferencing supervisor, which he has done for 15 years. He was also a member of the Berks County Jail System Crisis Emergency Response Team (CERT) for seven years, including four years serving as team commander.
“I bring true experience. I believe that I absolutely have the most experience at the closest level to the district justice based on what I do. I have conducted over 20,000 discipline hearing using federal law and I absolutely believe that I am the most qualified for the position,” said VanBilliard. “I want to bring that experience to the people in my district. I believe it will be the best, most logical step.”
In order to run for a position as district justice, a candidate must be a local resident for at least one year, be no younger than 21 and no older than 70. Candidates must be a state bar member or complete a training course and pass an exam upon election if they are not a bar member.