It’s the end of an era in Royalton Town Court.
Town justice Greg Bass, 65, heard his last cases on Tuesday. He’s retiring on Dec. 31, after 28 years on the bench, which makes him the longest continuously serving justice in the town’s history.
In recognition of Bass’s public service record, the Royalton Town Board approved naming the town courtroom after him. The nameplate over the entrance, which reads “Gregory A. Bass Courtroom,” was unveiled earlier this month, during the town court’s holiday party at the town hall.
The unveiling was a surprise for Bass. Traditionally, the court’s holiday party is held at the Village Eatery in Lockport; but this year, Bass was informed, the restaurant was overbooked, so the party would have to be at the town hall. Bass’s relatives from out of state were in on the surprise and were present for the unveiling.
Bass said he was “completely overwhelmed” by the honor. “Totally unexpected.”
James Budde, town board member and town justice-elect, said the naming celebrates Bass’s “unblemished record of service.”
Board members were contemplating how best to recognize Bass upon his retirement when Budde proposed the winning idea. Driving on Robinson Road in Lockport, Budde said, he passed by the town hall and noted that Lockport town court is named after well respected former justice Wesley Arnold.
Bass, a 1974 graduate of Kentucky-based Transylvania University, long aspired to work in law enforcement, but his way into the field was unexpected.
After getting a degree in pre-law studies, Bass intended to become a police officer and took the police exams for Lockport Police Department and New York State Police. He was offered a post with LPD but, he said, it was only for four hours a day and he would have had to relocate from Middleport, where he had just purchased a house. Instead Bass ended up going to work full-time at Perry’s Ice Cream.
Bass got involved in town politics in 1989, after his wife, Y. Christine, started working as a town court clerk and he was recruited to run for retiring justice Bruno Pacini’s seat.
“I got out there and just started beating on doors and talking to people,” Bass recalled. Since then, he was elected and re-elected seven times.
Twenty-eight years later, Bass believes the most important thing he did as a justice of the peace was to seize moments to help people turn their lives around.
“I tell people all the time that you hear hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of cases over the years, and you may have that one-in-a-thousand case where you really make a difference. But that difference is a partnership between the defendant and the court because you give them an opportunity to succeed. But at the same time that opportunity is an opportunity to fail. It’s a two-edged sword,” Bass said. “If that person is applying themselves and working towards it, then you really encourage it and you support that.
“So I like to think there’s been a few people that have come to the court that I’ve been able to maybe give positive direction to.”
Bass is planning to relocate to Ohio, to be closer to his family and hopefully do some hunting, fishing and golfing, he said.
Bass’s successor on the bench, Budde, said he’s looking forward to taking on a new and different form of public service come Jan. 1.
“Obviously I don’t look to the fact that I have big shoes to fill; that goes without saying,” Budde said. “So I’m going to be my own individual, as I think the people expect me to be.”