Title: judge for Hillsborough County Court
Hometown: Columbia, South Carolina
Alma maters: University of Florida (UF, B.A.) and Florida State University (FSU, J.D.)
On the job: I preside over county civil cases and domestic violence cases. The goal of my job every day is to give people the opportunity to be heard and apply the facts to the law without fear or favor. County court is “The People’s Court.” I remain very aware of that every day I sit on the bench. Serving as a judge continually reminds me of the multifaceted nature of the human condition and responsiveness to it. This year I was named Outstanding Jurist of the Year by the Hillsborough County Bar Association, but the greatest accomplishments I’ve witnessed since becoming a judge are not my own.
Giving back: My parents taught me that if I was proud of who I am and where I come from, then I have an obligation to give back. I am very passionate about the opportunity to engage with and learn from community leaders. In 2021, I was appointed by the MacDill Air Force Base commander to serve as an honorary commander — an honor bestowed upon civic leaders providing the opportunity to engage with and learn from military leaders about the Air Force mission. I currently serve on the boards of directors for each of the following organizations: Florida Children and Youth Cabinet, UF Alumni Association, FSU College of Law Alumni Association, Academy Prep of Tampa, Junior League of Tampa, Hillsborough County Bar Association, Hillsborough Association of Women Lawyers and George Edgecomb Bar Association. Every year, I also make time for mentorship of law students, at-risk students and elementary school civics education.
When I’m not working, you can find me spending time with my husband and son, visiting local, state and national parks and if I’m lucky, watching an episode or two of “Jeopardy” a week.
When I was a child I wanted to be a news anchor or detective.
My secret talent or skill is that I can write my name with my right foot. It’s a leftover skill derived from two decades of classical ballet training.
My dream vacation is anywhere with a great view, the chance to get outdoors, good food, my favorite people and no email access.
The best piece of advice I’ve ever received is, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.” This Chinese proverb is one a dear mentor of mine always references with regard to goal-setting and preparing for future success. She first shared this advice when I was a brand new lawyer and I’ve never forgotten it.
My favorite thing about Tampa is how the city is coming into its own. Tampa has always been extraordinary, albeit more of a secret in this regard. The past decade has presented Tampa with a multitude of opportunities to let the rest of the country know what we locally have always known — that this is an incredible place to work, live and raise a family. And like the champions it houses, when presented with these opportunities, Tampa rose to the occasion, developing a national and international reputation as a city on the rise. It’s exciting to witness.
My motto or philosophy that I live by is to view obstacles as a foundation for future success. Not in an overly rose-colored glasses sort of way, but more analytically — try to learn from setbacks such that the lesson can be beneficial in the future.
My hero or inspiration is my parents. My mom and dad have been married for 42 years, are currently enjoying retirement after successful careers and continually serve as examples of what can result from combining faith with perseverance.
My pump-up song is: too many to name, having spent a career as a prosecutor and now judge. I have an entire playlist titled “WIN!”
My most ambitious goal is to do all that I can, every day that I can, to be a good mom.
The greatest adversity I’ve faced is becoming the first lawyer in my family’s history. Navigating the unknown is always difficult, but I’m grateful for the support of those who believed in me during moments of uncertainty.