Most people only get involved in the workings of the town court when they find themselves on the wrong side of the law. In Gardiner, that situation is somewhat eased by the effective but low-profile presence of Jean Savago, Court Clerk for the Town of Gardiner.
Jean has been the court clerk in Gardiner for over 28 years. She began when her husband, the Honorable John Savago, became the Town Justice in 1982. They had to get special permission to make sure that there was no conflict of interest inherent in wife and husband serving as clerk and judge. At that time, the procedures were a bit different than they are today. It was a time when it was not uncommon for arraignments to be processed in the middle of the night, at their home on Phillies Bridge Road. It was a time when all the court records were kept at home in a home filing cabinet.
The town hall was in the old schoolhouse in Tuthilltown and Jean would bring the files pertinent to the evening’s cases from home to court. It was only recently, and after several different moves over the years, that the situation changed. When the current town hall was completed a few years ago it became possible for the clerk, the judge, the court, the files and the police to all be in the same building at the same time.
One of the little-known facets of the court clerk’s position is the fact that they have the responsibility of applying for a yearly grant from New York State. Jean has sucessfully secured for Gardiner computers, furniture, police videos and other court related items through this grant from New York State.
Jean has served under eight town supervisors and has been a bridesmaid or witness for many weddings. She and the Judge have hiked up mountains to perform ceremonies for those who wanted to be married on a ledge overlooking Gardiner—and they have had numerous weddings for folks at their own home. Jean relates all this as if it were perfectly normal for a town judge and court clerk to give so much personal attention, care and love to the people of their community, and it is normal—for Gardiner. Jean and John Savago have spent 28 years making it that way.
Jean was born in New Paltz and went to the Campus School at SUNY. Jean and John have three children and five grandchildren. In fact, said Jean with a little touch of pride, “My first grandchild has just gone off to college.”