Melissa Barrett did not win the election for Monroe County Court Judge. But throughout the summer and fall, all across the county, Melissa presented herself as a model judicial candidate. Meeting thousands of people, Melissa told the story of her life and work and why justice and fairness is fundamental to a good society. Over the course of the campaign, I crossed paths with Melissa close to ten times.
I first met Melissa on the corner of South and Highland during the Lilac Festival. Learning she was running for judge, I asked some tough questions about where she stood on certain political issues and legal theories.
As she did throughout the campaign, Melissa explained that the Judicial Campaign Ethics Handbook requires no judicial candidate announce his or her views on disputed legal or political issues. During our conversations, Melissa was scrupulous about not pushing ethical boundaries on permissible topics. Melissa focused on her own life story and professional qualifications.
So instead of politics, I told Melissa about the day’s mission: locating the Lilac Queen. As it turned out, the festival had ended the Queen tradition. Always looking out for her constituency, Melissa did put me in touch with her friend who was the last Queen before the shameful ending of the Lilac Monarchy.
I could tell Melissa was a good sport. So I invited her to our Sunday softball game at the Twelve Corners Middle School in Brighton. I wanted Melissa to be our umpire. We’d take pictures of her throwing people out of the game for stealing second base.
Alas, when Melissa arrived at the game, she was dressed in her campaign outfit. So she just had to watch from the sidelines when I hit a home run.
After the game, Melissa and I went to the Brighton Farmer’s Marker around the corner where she charmed prospective voters. Melissa says she caught me taking money from the band tip basket, but I swore to her I was leaving money.
Next I saw Melissa at the Corn Hill Festival. She was meeting voters and asking people to sign her ballot qualifying petition. I signed. Actually, mine was the final signature that put Melissa over the top!
Next, Melissa was at the Summer Sunset Serenade at Buckland Park in Brighton for Noble Vibes. Melissa really let her hair down as she danced to reggae with Phill “the Glassman” Glass.
Melissa was everywhere. I caught up with her at SOTA for a community discussion on violence that included members of Art Force Five. She wagged her finger at this paparazzi!
When we did a follow up story on the art force, there was Melissa at the Party in the Park in Manhattan Square Park, painting and adding a square to the Art Force’s tile wall.
Melissa was showing her pride at the Pride Parade. That day became We Are Orlando. And 25 years ago when the RCSD led the nation against discrimination towards gay students.
Finally, at the Labor Day Parade, Melissa was marching up and down Main Street, meeting, greeting and wowing her fans.
Melissa didn’t win. But all over the county she educated and inspired. Melissa deserves our admiration for being out in the streets, schools and parks making a difference.
And next year, Melissa promises to play softball at our Game at the Corners.
UPDATE: In Who are your labor heroes?, we caught up with Melissa during her successful campaign for city court judge.