Four local attorneys have qualified for the race to fill retiring Pasco County Judge Robert P. Cole's position.
A county judge handles issues such as misdemeanors, traffic citations, county ordinance violations and civil suits where the damages are less than $15,000. Judicial races are non-partisan and the salary for this position is $134,280.
These four candidates will square off in the Aug. 14 election:
• Eva Vergos, 34, is an assistant state attorney. She had an internship with the State Attorney's Office while she was a student at Gulf High School and knew that is what she wanted to do. She graduated from Syracuse University College of Law on May 21, 2001 and started working for the State Attorney's Office in New Port Richey eight days later.
"The responsibility of the state attorney is so great," she said. "You are different than anyone in the courtroom — you are the only person in the courtroom who is there to find the truth. That is your mission."
She's spent the past several years focusing on cases involving children: child neglect, child abuse. Murders of children. Sexual abuse of children. After long, difficult days, she goes home and hugs her 8-month-old son, her first child. She said she loves her career, but is running for judge because it is time.
"I know first hand what it takes to be a good judge," she said. "At this point in my life, I want to give that part of myself to the system."
• Joseph Poblick, 37, is the city attorney for Zephyrhills and Port Richey, as well as a private practice attorney. Poblick, a graduate of Loyola University School of Law, said he has considered the idea of running for judge for some time.
"It's something that has always been in the back of my mind, watching Perry Mason on TV on Sundays," said Poblick, who graduated from Pasco High. He was drawn to the theme of fairness.
"The law is a constant that applies to everyone," he said. "Or at least it should."
In 2007, his Zephyrhills home was broken into while his wife was still pregnant with their twin daughters. It was the morning. She left for an hour for a doctor's appointment. She came back and the house was ransacked. It was terrifying for both of them, Poblick said. And it spurred him to run for judge.
"Through this I had the opportunity to see the judicial system as a victim," he said, noting someone was charged in the case. "I think things can be done better."
• Tom Hanlon, 58, is the senior assistant public defender in the Dade City courthouse. He said he hadn't considered being a judge until he heard Cole was retiring.
"I've always admired the way he handled his courts," said Hanlon, who grew up in Tampa and graduated from the South Texas College of Law. He paid his way through law school by working as a courtroom bailiff.
"I got to sit in court all day long and watch the lawyers," he said.
After graduation, he worked as a private practice attorney in Tampa until 1997, when Public Defender Bob Dillinger asked Hanlon to lead the team in Dade City. He said it was an amazing gift and the east Pasco courthouse — where Cole has his court — is the best place he's worked.
"I like helping people," he said. "I don't think there is a better field."
• Frank Grey, 57, ran for a judge's seat previously. In 2006, he lost the position to Candy VanDercar by just 55 votes.
He said he doesn't really like politics.
But Grey, a private practice attorney, said he believes he would do well as a judge, which is why he's running again.
"I would do a good job," he said, "and I would be conscious to live up to everybody's trust and belief."
He comes from a prominent real estate family. His grandfather came to Pasco a century ago and started F.I. Grey & Son, which is still run by Grey's brothers. Grey, a graduate of Stetson University College of Law, was pulled into the field of law because of his nature — calm, unruffled, a mediator — and friends and teachers kept telling him he would be a good lawyer. And then once he was an attorney, people kept telling him he would be a good judge.
"I try to be respectful of everybody," he said, "to be patient and to try to address their issues and, depending on what all the facts are, make the right decision."
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.