KINGSTON — For 20 years, Jim Haggerty had keys to the Kingston Municipal Building as mayor.
On Friday, he had to be let inside his new office.
Haggerty resigned as mayor Thursday to take an oath to become district judge for Edwardsville and Kingston. His first official day will be Monday, the first of the year.
Haggerty replaces Paul Roberts, who was district judge for 29 years until he resigned Dec. 31, 2016. Roberts will officially become mayor on Jan. 2.
Don’t call it a switch, or a flip-flop. It just seems that way, Haggerty said.
Haggerty said he announced his candidacy for district judge more than a month after Roberts resigned.
“The only reason it appears that way is because there were no opponents for either of us in the general election,” Haggerty said.
Haggerty was opposed in the primary election by Attorney Mamie Phillips, a former hard-nosed Luzerne County assistant district attorney. Roberts was unopposed in the primary and general elections.
Sitting at his desk Friday, Haggerty reflected on his two decades as mayor. He couldn’t name a single big accomplishment but cited numerous projects that he and his administration fulfilled, including $1.5 million to refurbish the pool and building a new fire department headquarters.
Those projects wouldn’t have been fulfilled if Kingston’s financial status wasn’t fixed.
Haggerty said when he became mayor in 1998, Kingston was faced with paying a $3.5 million bond and a high income tax rate. When he resigned Thursday, Kingston had $1.4 million in the bank, Haggerty said.
When the bond was paid off, Haggerty and other Kingston officials had a mortgage burning ceremony outside the Independent Hose Company.
“By fixing the financial burden, it allowed us to do all the projects that we did, Haggerty said.
In rapid fire, Haggerty cited a few of the projects: Refurbishing the pool, fixing the pension fund that saved $800,000 over the years, building the new fire headquarters, maintaining a police force of 19 officers and a fire department of 29 firefighters, renovating all the playgrounds and paving streets.
“Taking care of the finances early on allowed us to do all those projects,” Haggerty said. “We had a good run for 20 years.”
As Kingston and Edwardsville has a new district judge, they will also have a new district courtroom.
Employees with the Kingston Department of Public Works is renovating the courtroom and its offices to make it safer.A locked door and safety glass separates the inner office and court employees and Haggerty will have a separate entrance to the courtroom. Attorneys will have separate rooms to meet privately with clients.
Prior to the renovations, the district judge had to walk past defendants and witnesses in a hallway and inside the courtroom, and attorneys were forced to speak with clients within earshot of other people.
As for being a district judge, Haggerty — who has been a lawyer since 1990 — said he will be fair and stern.
“I’ve been litigating for so long, I will feel comfortable with anything presented before me,” Haggerty said.
When Roberts becomes mayor on Jan. 2, Haggerty will preside over the ceremony.