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Fayette will need 2 row officers, 2 judges as incumbents step down

| Wednesday, Jan. 23, 2013, 12:02 a.m.

Fayette County voters this year will elect two row officers and two judges as the four incumbents retire.

The most recent to announce plans to retire is Robert Danko, who has been county treasurer for 24 years.

Danko, 81, was first elected in 1990. He said he ran only because the former treasurer, Nicholas Kornick, encouraged him to do so.

“Mr. Kornick kept telling me he wanted me to run,” said Danko, noting he was reluctant at first but eventually “threw my hat in” and ran. “I did, and I was very successful, pulling in a significant amount of the vote, which surprised a lot of people.”

Danko said he is thankful that voters re-elected him five times. He credits his success during his tenure to his five-member staff.

“Without my girls, I'd be nothing,” said Danko, who will leave office when his term expires at the end of the year.

“I really need to give someone else a chance to come in here,” Danko said. “I couldn't wait until I was 65 to retire, and here I am, at 81, still working.”

Danko said he plans to spend more time with his wife, Marsha, in retirement, along with focusing more on one of his hobbies, restoring antique cars.

Danko's chief deputy, Dianne Rossini, will retire at the end of the year, as well. She said she could have retired earlier but opted to stay until Danko left.

“He's very special,” Rossini said. “He's the best boss I ever worked for.”

Danko's successor will be elected to a four-year term.

Another longtime row officer, Lance Winterhalter, quit his job as prothonotary in June. He won re-election in 2011 and had only partially served out a four-year term when he left.

Winterhalter's successor will serve only two years to finish out the unexpired term, according to Larry Blosser, election bureau director.

Two openings for judges are up for election because Ralph Warman and Gerald Solomon retired.

Warman retired in July at age 68.

Solomon retired in December after reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. He and a number of other judges from different counties have filed federal civil rights lawsuits challenging the mandatory retirement provision. The suit, along with another filed by judges from other counties in the same situation, is pending in U.S. District Court in Harrisburg.

Warman and Solomon are working part time as senior judges. Their successors will serve 10-year terms.

Blosser said prospective candidates for the row officer positions can begin to circulate nominating petitions on Feb. 19.

A number of attorneys have announced their candidacy for judge.

Their nominating petitions will be filed in Harrisburg, Blosser said.

Fred Lebder, chairman of the county's Democratic party, said he anticipates the row officer positions will draw numerous candidates for the spring primary.

He said the party has no plans to field any specific candidate.

Russ Rhodes, chairman of the county's Republican party, could not be reached for comment.

Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or lzemba@tribweb.com.

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