A little more than four years after taking over his position as Payson’s regional justice, Judge Dorothy Little swore in Ronnie O. McDaniel as the Tonto Apaches’ new tribal judge Friday.
McDaniel takes over for Tao Etpison, who resigned in March after serving as chief judge of the tribe for eight years. Etpison, an attorney and councilor with the San Carlos Apache Tribe, stepped down so the Tonto Apache Tribe could have a more full-time and local judge.
McDaniel, who retired in 2004 after serving Payson for 20 years, said he has the time to devote to the tribe. After only a few years away from the courtroom, McDaniel said he is looking forward to taking a seat behind a new desk and staying busy.
“I am not used to tribal law, but I will learn it and look forward to it,” McDaniel said. “I will do the best job I can.”
The Tonto Apache Tribal Council appointed McDaniel after he was selected from a group of several other candidates.
Court administrator Nathaniel Campbell said they were looking for someone local and familiar with the tribe.
Although not a member of the Tonto Apache Tribe, McDaniel has lived in Payson his entire life, is of Native American descent and is familiar with some of the tribe’s customs and law and order code, he said.
“I have known the people a long time, so I guess I know what I am getting into,” McDaniel joked at the swearing in ceremony. “I am happy to be selected for the job.”
Besides serving as a judge, McDaniel is a former high school star athlete, rodeo bull rider, school board president, Diamond Star mayor and retired deputy sheriff.
As Chief Judge, McDaniel will handle a variety of cases, ranging from child custody to civil misdemeanors.
The court meets once a week on Tuesdays in its modern courthouse, and the case load is usually small,” Campbell said.
Regarding the new laws and procedures to understand, McDaniel said it will be a change for him, but he has already started learning them.