Attorney Rhonda Peoples Waters elected judge in Duval County, makes history

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Attorney Rhonda Peoples Waters has tried 16 times to become a judge in Duval County. Eleven years after her first attempt, she did it -- making history as the first black woman elected to the seat.

“I believe this is truly a story of hard work and perseverance and not giving up,” said Peoples Waters.

She’s not the first black female in the role of a county court judge in Duval County. That was Pauline Drake, who former Florida democratic governor Lawton Chiles appointed to the role in 1998. Since then, two more black women have been appointed to a county judge seat.

But Peoples Waters is the first black woman that voters placed in a judge seat. Tuesday, she beat out incumbent Erin Perry with more than 90,000 votes, receiving 58% of the vote.

“I felt like I had been before the people enough that the people of Duval knew me,” said Peoples Waters. “They knew who I was, trusted me. They knew that I would follow the law.”

Peoples Waters has been selected 13 times by commissions as a finalist for judicial nominations.

A day after the historic win, there was no party for Peoples Waters. She pulled over to speak to News4Jax on Wednesday while driving her sophomore engineering student back to college.

“[It’s what] so many other working moms and working dads in our community have to do,” she said. “We can celebrate but guess what? We got to get right back on this horse and get the next day moving. That’s what we do.”

The former public defender said she plans to close her law office shortly before beginning her term as judge in January.

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