By Sandy Scarmack
Herald Staff Writer
MERCER COUNTY —
Greenville attorney Daniel P. Wallace took the top spot on Tuesday’s ballot as voters elected him as a judge of the Mercer County Court of Common Pleas, besting challenger Victor S. Heutsche by a margin of almost 2 to 1.
Celebrating his victory, and his 25th wedding anniversary, at Reynolds VFW, Wallace said he very much appreciated the “clean” campaign that he and Heutsche conducted and added, “I would like to say that Vic is such a qualified candidate, so much so, in fact, that he made me work that much harder and I mean that sincerely.”
“Without a doubt I am unbelievably grateful for the committee, the volunteers and the hard work they did. It was very much a team effort and I appreciate it so much,” Wallace added.
And to make the night even more special, Wallace got down on one knee and proposed to Susan, his wife of 25 years, giving her a diamond ring to replace her engagement ring she lost on a cruise several years ago.
“And she said ‘Yes,’ which made everything worth it,” he said. The couple live in West Salem Township.
This was Wallace’s third bid for a seat on the bench, where he will join Judge Christopher St. John, his former law partner in private practice.
St. John, who was seeking a retention vote, won another 10-year term, with 13,614 votes in favor and 3,128 against. Judges are unopposed in retention elections.
The judicial opening was created by the retirement of Judge John C. Reed, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70.
A 1988 graduate of the military academy at West Point and a 1995 graduate of Dickinson School of Law, Wallace ran on the Republican ticket. He has been an attorney in a general law practice for 18 years, as well as solicitor for Greenville Area School District, Greenville Sanitary Authority and Greenville-Reynolds Development. He’s also served as the solicitor for four townships and has served as a part-time public defender for 10 years.
Criss-crossing Mercer County for much of the last year while he campaigned, Wallace said he enjoyed a newfound appreciation for much of the Shenango Valley and its residents, and in particular he enjoyed the WaterFire Sharon events.
He said he was weary from the events of the last year, but enjoyed the opportunities to meet with so many people across Mercer County.
Wallace, a Desert Storm combat veteran, said he would follow the lead of President Judge Thomas Dobson when he joins the court in January and won’t be setting any policy, but he has said he would like to see better use made of the probation office and its officers.
“There are those who think that probation is a waste of time, that it’s a gift to the defendant. I think it’s an opportunity to change someone’s life.
“If they are on probation and they violate those terms, the consequences will be severe. But I’d like to see that office have a bit more latitude when dealing with infractions before it gets back to the judge,” he said.
Democrat Heutsche, a Sharon attorney and councilman, campaigned on his broad experience in conflict resolution issues as well as in government.
“I was surprised I got beat as bad as I did. It was a hard campaign, but I’m content we did everything we could. Unfortunately the voters just didn’t come out,” he said.
“Dan Wallace is a good guy. He’ll be a fine judge. I don’t have any regrets,” Heutsche said.