As he looks at the days preceding his eighth term on the bench, the Honorable Judge Richard Chavez is crediting his success as the municipal judge to the people of Taos for electing him consistently for so many years.
For the past 28 years, Chavez has sat on the bench of the Taos Municipal Court and is running unopposed again this year for his position.
Chavez takes this as a hint that the people in Taos are satisfied with his service to the community and the courts. A proud native of El Prado and a lifelong member of the community in Taos, Chavez has served many in the community during his time as a judge and says he will do so until the people say otherwise.
"I just like helping people," said Chavez, 78. "And I really enjoy working for the people."
Chavez said his first experience helping people came when he began to coach Little League Baseball during his younger years. He continued to coach most of his life. In addition, he served with the Army National Guard for 15 years.
After serving in the Guard, Chavez began working as a contractor. Later he decided he wanted to leave the business and pursue a different path. He chose a judge's robes, winning his first election in 1990 for Taos municipal judge against seven other candidates, Chavez said he won the seat by a mere eight votes.
That victory solidified his career. After only a few years, it became clear that he was going to serve his community from behind the bench.
"As a judge you have to have confidence in yourself," Chavez said. "You have to have confidence in yourself to make the right decision."
Chavez said the hardest moment in his career came a week after accepting the position when he had to sentence a former Little League player of his to a stint in jail, a decision that still weighs on him. Despite the hardship, Chavez said his priest helped him understand that he was to judge those who broke the law of the land, and it was now his duty to do so.
According to Chavez, a municipal judge handles a variety of cases such as traffic, petty misdemeanors and others. During his time as judge, Chavez said he tried to be fair with those who come into his court and gives respect when respect is given to him. Chavez, despite his position, is still a member of the community and said he often has people come up and thank him for the sentences or demands in court and often has parents who have the most to say about the lessons their children learned.
"It makes me feel good that the people have that trust in me," Chavez said.
As he looks toward the future, Chavez said he wanted to reach out and thank the community for electing him for the position for so many years and hopes to continue to be able to serve after election day, March 6.