- Tell us about yourself!
I was born and raised in Marshfield, and graduated in 1998. I am a veteran of the US Army (Military Police), and the US Air Force (working on the B-2 Bomber at Whiteman Air Force Base). I deployed to Iraq in 2005. My academic and professional background is oriented toward criminal justice. I have dual-degrees with honors in Criminology and Religious Studies. I worked as a Corrections Officer at two prisons with the Federal Bureau of Prisons, as an Assistant Prosecuting Attorney in Greene County, as a private criminal defense attorney, and since 2019 I have served as an attorney on our local Drug Court team, alongside Sheriff Roy Cole, Prosecutor Ben Berkstresser, Dr. Ward Lawson, and Judge Replogle. I am a trial attorney, advocating for my clients in criminal, family, and civil cases. I am proudest of my work as a Guardian ad Litem for children in abuse/neglect cases in courtrooms across Southwest Missouri, where I have earned a reputation as a fierce advocate for children. I have worked as a veterans advocate, handling complicated veterans disability appeals, working at low/no-cost to veterans for legal matters, and fostering a strong network of friendships in the veteran community. I am a business owner, founder of Ozarks Family Law, a successful firm with offices in Marshfield and Springfield, and the owner of JME Properties. I live in my grandparent’s old home, the home where I spent many happy days of my childhood, right here in Webster County.
- Why are you the best candidate for the position ?
I have practiced in front of many, many Judges. All of them knew the basics of the law, and all of them are what you might call “book-smart”. Many of them are very good Judges. But the qualities that make a GREAT Judge are not things that can be learned in a classroom, or simply learned from the comfort of a courtroom. The great Judges are those who know the most fundamental skills in a courtroom are PEOPLE skills.
A great Judge understands people. How to speak to people. How to work with and manage a team to accomplish a goal. How to work with and speak to people from different walks of life and with different roles in the court: victims, staff, law enforcement, attorneys, litigants, and yes – even criminals. A great Judge has life experience, and understands how to work with people from all backgrounds.
I have lived out in the world. I have worked blue-collar jobs. I have worked in the military, and in law enforcement.I have lived in the poor part of town. I have been a victim of a serious violent crime, and I have prosecuted those same types of crimes. I know the struggle of building a successful business. I know what real life looks like outside of a courthouse. I know how to manage people, work with the public and how to be a part of a team. I will bring those people skills to the bench to serve our county.
- How has your experience prepared you for this role?
My professional experience spans a broad range of case types. I have worked civil, criminal, family, property, order of protection, and juvenile cases. I’ve worked on nearly every type of legal matter that impacts regular people. Not only do I know how to handle those cases in court, I have done the real-world “boots on ground” work that prepares those cases for trial. I have interviewed adult and child victims. I have worked with law enforcement not only in the courtroom, but during ongoing investigations. I have done site visits, victim interviews, and offender interviews. I work with our Sheriff’s Department, our police, victim advocates, defense attorneys, mental health professionals, and state agencies such as the Children's Division in preparing cases and managing the people involved in them. I know not only how the courtroom runs, but how the entire process unfolds prior to a case entering the court system. You can learn the law in a classroom, but the practical experience of working cases out in the world provides perspective that can’t be learned in a book. My experience allows me to see how the many parts of the system work together to produce just outcomes. A court case is more than just a judgment, more than a piece of paper, more than an academic exercise – it’s a changed life. I care deeply about the people in our community. I believe that my experience – and my understanding of the entire legal process – make me uniquely qualified to be our next Judge.
- What are goals for the future?
Professionally, I want to make Webster County courts the best they can possibly be – a place where everyone; employees, law enforcement, attorneys, and litigants, can expect to be treated with professionalism and respect. A place where the legal outcome of a case considers the real-world impact on the lives of those involved.
While this is not for the Judge to decide, I would like to see Webster County (or our circuit) increase veteran involvement in Treatment Court, or even start a Veteran’s Court to help veterans in much the same way that Treatment Court does. I would be proud to serve if our county/circuit were to establish such a court. I certainly want to educate and increase awareness in the legal system of how veteran needs are sometimes different from non-veterans when interacting with the court system. If our county or circuit were to establish veteran-specific legal programs, I would certainly be excited to help with that!
My personal goals include increasing my work and involvement in my church, traveling to as many national parks as I can, spending more meaningful time with my family and friends, and finally: realizing my dream of purchasing property and starting an animal rescue that specifically serves Webster County – one that our residents could bring their families to and meet adoptable animals in a fun environment!
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