DANNEMORA - When Ruth M. Snyder became Dannemora's village justice nearly 30 years ago, it was a role she never would have imagined herself taking on.
Snyder was approached by the village board of trustees about her interest in running for the vacant seat not long after the sudden passing of her husband, Robert. She recalled she needed some form of income to pay bills and the taxes on her home and the job was something that would help her do just that.
"I had to do something," said Snyder.
Though she had no background in the legal system and hadn't worked outside her home in several years, Snyder took on the challenge, won her seat and officially took office as the village's first female justice on Oct. 1, 1979.
Almost immediately, Snyder knew she was in for quite the learning curve. However, through the help of some New York State Police officers stationed in the village at the time, Snyder was able to get an education on the basics of law enforcement and how authorities interacted with the court.
"I had never even seen a parking ticket before so they brought me all their law books and that helped me before I went to school for training," said Snyder.
Dan Mitchell, Plattsburgh's town justice at the time, and then town justice of Schuyler Falls Roger Dashnaw, were two men Snyder said she learned a lot from as she established her career. She remembers sitting in on court appearances Mitchell handled and it wasn't long before she asked him if presiding over cases dealt mainly with common sense.
"He said that if I already realized that I'll make a good judge," she recalled with a laugh.
Throughout the years, the court system itself has changed in many ways, said Snyder. Paperwork once done by hand or by typewriter evolved into being electronically filed. State mandates have increased the amount of paperwork significantly, she said, leading her to be in the court much longer than she used to working on cases.