She made history — Judge Rhonda Peoples Waters is what resilience looks like.
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 in 2020.
She was voted in by the people. 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.”
How did it feel to finally make history in Duval County?
I am excited and humbled that WE the people won. I am so grateful to not only make history but to open doors for others to walk in their destiny.
What was different about this election?
This election was different in many ways. It was truly the voice of the people that was heard in this election. To have this election during the pandemic and the current state of affairs in our country, state and city, we were unsure what to expect. For example, our campaign spent thousands more to reach most absentee voters by mail versus the usual hand shaking at events. Our social media strategy was intensified immensely because we knew we had to get our message out.
What are your thoughts about the current state of affairs in the country?
I am thankful to be a change agent in today’s world. We are obligated to open the doors wider for future generations. What advice would you have for someone who is thinking about giving up because they feel that the fight is unwinnable? God is pleased. I submitted my first application for judicial appointment in 2009. I have applied for judicial appointments a total of 16 times and 13 of those times my name was recommended to governors for appointment by the nominating commission.
So while we enjoy an amazing victory now, this testimony is about perseverance and not giving up. Not letting others define your worth. You don’t know about my tears and self-doubt after hearing NO every way imaginable. I think we also made history with this many NOs, after committee recommendations. Years of being on public display of disappointment after disappointment. But God! I knew I heard the voice and promise of God. Yes, I had my moments of confusion and self doubt but I was so afraid to be disobedient to His voice. More afraid of that disobedience, than the fear of threats and what would happen to my legal career. Please do whatever works for you to be sure you can hear and discern His voice. For me it was prayer, fasting, listening to worship music, filling up on His word from so many amazing Pastors and others, and listening to Priscilla Shirer YouTube videos. Why did God choose me for such a public display of disappointment? I am still talking with Him about that. But I am sure He knew, even when I didn’t, that I would not let go of His hand. Don’t you let go of His hand.
What words of encouragement would you like to share to everyone?
Our faithfulness to God yields unfathomable results. Our campaign raised more donations than any other Duval county candidate and we won with more votes than ANY other candidate on the ballot in the county- 91,147 votes! God will not fail you. Just don’t give up!