Iacocca hopes to keep serving community as District Justice

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By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Al Iacocca

If you know Unionville or Kennett well, you’ve probably bumped into Al Iacocca. Maybe more than once.

The local attorney and fixture with various local civil groups is hoping to continue his service to the community as its next District Justice, which he sees as a logical extension of his current work with kids and the community throughout the Unionville and Kennett area over the past decade plus.

Iacocca, a Democrat from East Marlborough, faces Republican Jane Donze for the open 15-3-04 District bench, based in Kennett Square, but covering virtually all of the Unionville and Kennett areas. While some might see running for District Justice as a stepping stone to higher political office or the bench of the Court of Common Pleas, Iacocca makes it clear he intends to go no further.

“This is a one and done — well hopefully not one and done,” he said, smiling, making it clear he had no ambitions beyond, hopefully, running for reelection if he wins in November. “I’m not interested in the next level..you know people are like ‘Stepping stone…’ No. I’m a community guy, I want to be a community judge. I want to be active in the community and be able to stay that way.”

As a newcomer to politics, deciding to run ultimately came from thinking he’d be good at the job and be able to extend his good works in the community.

“I believe I would do a very good job,” he said. “I think I’m well suited for the position and I have a lot of support from attorneys — they were complimentary.” He admits to struggling with some aspects of politics — he suggests he’s more of a ‘figure out what needs to be done and do it’ person, rather than someone who seeks a lot of credit, which doesn’t always translate well when running for office. But, despite being new to politics, he sees the position as an opportunity to be of greater service to the community.

“It’s an empowering position for me to be able to do more in the community,” he said. “Not empowering for me to have the power of a gavel to tell people what they are or aren’t going to do. I’m not on a bully trip, I’m not on a power trip. People that know me, know that.”

Iacocca said a frustration for him has been the limits of practical campaigning — and that at times his history and intent are either misconstrued or worse, deliberately mischaracterized by others. Between his own door knocking and all of the folks in the community who know him, he hopes the real message gets out.

Temperament matters on the bench, Iacocca notes. He hopes that folks who have gotten to know him over the years see him as a calm, even-keeled and consistent person, but also always approachable.

“When you ask what you see a judge being, I think it has to be someone people are comfortable with,” he said, “You don’t want someone who is in your face and is gruff and nasty and looking up there like you have to be mean, you want someone who is approachable and gentle, but firm.”

If elected, he hopes to spend time in local schools working with at-risk kids — working to steer them in the right direction before they end up appearing in his courtroom. And while he expects to serve all age groups, the focus on kids seems to be in his wheelhouse.

Whether you’ve seen him coaching for the Unionville Recreation Association — he is a passionate fan of basketball and has sponsored the league’s basketball jerseys now for a number of years — or in his work for the Kennett YMCA, Hillendale PTO or Longwood Rotary or any number of other local groups, much of that focus, that give back to the community has been on kids, helping them to be physically more active and safer.

Based on his background, that might not be surprising.

In addition to being the father of three kids, Iacocca didn’t rush into practicing law as an adult, opting for the somewhat less lucrative field of teaching initially — he had previously earned a masters degree in German Literature and went on to teach at elementary, high school and college level.

Although a native of Pennsylvania — he grew up in the Allentown area — Iacocca points to time living in Germany, as well as in Virginia, Tennessee and North Carolina in helping him to develop a broader world view and perspective on both the community and the law.

Ultimately, the law called to him. Having graduated magna cum laude from North Carolina Central University School of Law in 2001, he embraced his new profession with both gusto and skill. He currently runs a law practice in Willowdale — which he plans to shutter if elected. He has been admitted to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court Bar, as well as the Federal District Court of Eastern Pennsylvania Bar, but not surprisingly, spends much of his time representing local clients in area District Courts as well as a the Chester County Court of Common Pleas.

He has also served as a Chester County Arbitrator for the past five years, hearing many different civil matters filed with the Court of Common Pleas. 

Despite the demands of his professional career — not to mention his wife, a pathologist, and three school age kids — Iacocca has consistently found time to give back to his community. He served on the board of the Kennett YMCA and helped to found a traveling triathlon team (he has been a competitive triathlete himself), plus took a turn as Race Director for The Kennett Run, which raises money for various local charities. He is a member of Longwood Rotary and has served as Vice President and President of the Hillendale Elementary School PTO. He is also a Boy Scout troop leader. And, of course, has spend many years as a youth sports coach.

His efforts in the community have not gone unnoticed. He was named Volunteer of the Year by YMCA of Brandywine Valley in 2010. Additionally, he and his wife Mary were honored with the E. Marshall Newton, III Good Kids Service Award in 2011 by the Kennett YMCA for their work with young people in the community.

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One Comment

  1. Sean says:

    As a life long republican, I’ve always been a party supporter. However, in this election Mr. Iacocca is the best and logical choice. Judicial races are very different than most. They are usually more professional and without the typical lies and slander. Mr. Iacocca is the only candidate here who obviously received that memo. Do the right thing for our community by showing folks that this seat cannot be bought. Support Iacocca as our next MDJ.

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