I am surprised that during my 20 years living and working here for the Finger Lakes Times I had yet to meet Howard Jeannette. Then again, there is a part of me that says maybe, in a way, that’s not such a bad thing since the guy has been the Geneva Town Court clerk for almost 23 years.
Glad to see my lead foot never led me yet to a proceeding in that court.
Now, at age 87, Howard has decided it’s time to slow down a bit. Though the job is part-time with court being in session on Wednesday evenings, this guy was there throughout the week working on an assortment of administrative duties and details.
Born in Tennessee, he spent some time in the Air Force before settling in the Washington, D.C. area. He lived there for decades and spent 27 years working at and managing law firms.
How did he make his way to the Finger Lakes?
Turns out he worked with area attorney Mark Venuti at the National Veterans Legal Service Program in our nation’s capital. They became good friends to the point that for about three years he shared a home with Mark in D.C.
Mark grew up in Geneva and eventually moved back. Howard visited often and decided in 1996 to relocate here, too, a choice he says he has never regretted.
A short time later Mark was elected Geneva Town Judge, a position that allows the judge to select and hire his own clerk.
With all his legal administrative experience Mark asked Howard to step in until he could find someone permanently. Howard was 65 at the time, an age when so many people are looking forward to retirement rather than a new career.
However, that new replacement never happened. The two worked there together for 12 years. When Venuti stepped down as judge and Pete Liberatore was elected, Howard was kept on for the consistency and knowledge he could provide. Pete’s background was in police law enforcement, so he had a new learning curve to get up to speed regarding judge responsibilities.
Howard has been working by his side for the past 10 years, though Pete has found a new clerk who comes with plenty of experience from her time as a city clerk.
Howard has no firm future plans. He enjoys living in Geneva. He says he has few hobbies other than reading and volunteering. The latter has seen him over the years be an important person in the development of the Geneva Boys and Girls Club.
He looked in remarkably good health the day we met at a farewell lunch in his honor last week — far younger than his 87 years of age. The guy was the sharpest dressed person at the event.
Though he admits he will miss the job — it made him the go-to person for many people and things — he says he is starting to feel his age and thought the time was right to slow down. If thought about literally, after all he still drives, he shouldn’t be back in traffic court any time soon other than on a social call.