Iowa has first black female judge
By Grant Schulte, Des Moines Register
An assistant Polk County attorney was chosen this week to become Iowa’s first female African-American judge, officials announced Friday.
Romonda Belcher-Ford, 42, was selected to fill the opening created by the retirement of Polk County District Associate Judge Joe Smith.
Belcher-Ford was nominated by a commission that screened applicants and picked three finalists. Polk County’s district judges voted her into the seat.
“I am truly elated,” Belcher-Ford said. “I’m blessed, I’m humbled, I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve in this capacity. It’s been a dream of mine, something I’ve always wanted to do.”
Belcher-Ford grew up in Plymouth, N.C., attended Howard University as an undergraduate, and moved to Iowa to study at Drake Law School.
She has worked in the Polk County attorney’s office for 15 years, most recently in the civil division.
Her past experience includes juvenile matters, domestic abuse cases and operating-while-intoxicated offenses. Belcher-Ford now represents the Polk County auditor and recorder and Polk County General Services.
She defends the county against civil rights complaints. She also is involved with civil commitment hearings for mental-health and substance abuse patients.
Belcher-Ford said she viewed her appointment as a great responsibility and as a chance to serve as a role model for others.
“An individual may walk away from the court not having a ruling they wanted,” Belcher-Ford said. “But I want them to walk away from the courtroom knowing they were respected, they were heard, they were treated with compassion, and they were treated fairly.”
Belcher-Ford was chosen from a pool of 20 applicants, said Polk County District Judge Artis Reis. Reis said Belcher-Ford must take the bench within 30 days of her appointment.
“She has a kindness and a compassion toward people,” Reis said. “She has a willingness to listen, and has demonstrated a willingness to become competent in many areas of the law.”
Iowa’s first black judge was William W. Parker, who was elected to the municipal court bench in Waterloo in 1963.