Incumbent Knows Justice Court From Bottom Up

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Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles of the three candidates seeking election for Payson Regional justice of the peace -- Dorothy Little, Dan Hill and Barry Standifird. The primary election will be held in September.

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Judge Dorothy Little

Dorothy Little was the mother of a one-year-old and just wanted to get out of the house when she responded to an ad for a part-time clerk in the Payson Regional Gila County Justice Court 19 years ago.

Today, Little is the presiding justice of the peace for the Payson region. She literally knows the justice court from the bottom up.

The Republican was appointed to fill the term of Judge Ronnie O. McDaniel when he retired in late 2004. Now, she is seeking election to the office.

"I became a full-time clerk by the end of 1987 and in 1991 was appointed chief clerk and justice of the peace pro tem, as well as associate magistrate," Little said.

A court decision requiring justices of the peace to be attorneys took away her pro tem status briefly. The ruling was overturned and Little resumed the title and its attendant duties.

She has lived in northern Gila County for 26 years.

"I enjoy the day-to-day challenge," Little said of her job as justice of the peace. "Every day is different and interesting."

The work is also rewarding, especially when she sees someone who has been before her bench and they thank her and tell her she changed their life.

"That's kind of neat," she said. "It is also interesting to watch the changes (in the system) every year ... and to be part of them -- to be part of history."

She said when she first started in the clerk's office, the court business was maintained in huge docket books, each weighing about 30 pounds.

The clerks would type up the necessary information on special paper, take the book apart, put the paper in its proper place and then have to put the book back together.

The year after she started was the first year the courts went to computers.

"I was fascinated and would stay late to teach myself how to use them," she said.

With the computers in place, the courts disposed of the docket books, but Little kept one, just to show people what it was like before higher technology was used.

"I am seeking the office because it is the career I've been working for. I know it inside and out," Little said. "I enjoy serving the residents of Gila County and look forward to new changes and challenges in the court."

She asks for the vote because "I have the knowledge, the experience, the dedication to serve the public, both on the bench and administratively.

"I believe it's important to treat everyone with dignity and respect, no matter who they are, where they're from or what's happened (to bring them into the court)."

After 19 years with the justice court, Little has a clear view of some of the changes she'd like to see.

"I'd like us to have a more modern, secure facility," she said. "It would also be good to have more computer integration among all the agencies involved -- law enforcement, detention and treatment facilities."

Some computer integration is already taking place, so the value is evident.

Among these, the motor vehicle department is online, so citations are part of the system. Orders of protection went online, and the Arizona Department of Public Safety is working to get online.

One thing Little feels does not need changing is the court staffing, which has grown from four-and-a-half employees (as the part-timer, Little was the half) to 10.

-- To reach Teresa McQuerrey call 474-5251 or e-mail tmcquerrey@payson.com

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