As Jackson Superior Court II Judge Bruce MacTavish presided over a case, Lorelai Dixon quietly sat to the side watching and listening.
The member of Girl Scout Troop 1239 in Seymour was so intrigued by the process that when bailiff Andrea Edwards asked if she wanted to leave the courtroom after a while, she chose to stay.
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“It was cool because I got to see what was happening and see what people deal with,” Dixon said.
She was familiar with what judges and attorneys do, but she had never seen them in action before.
While she’s not quite sure if she wants to pursue either profession in the future, Dixon was excited to learn more about them during Girl Scouts in County Government Day on May 30.
“Whether she wants to be that, she’s got an experience that she can talk to people about,” Troop 1239 leader Missy Casner said.
“Judge MacTavish told me, ‘If you want to do this every year, I’ll do it’ because he thinks it’s good,” Casner said of the inaugural event. “It’s a lot of planning together, from coordinating and getting people together and all of that stuff, and the fact that he wants to give them the opportunities, so do the rest of them that are here today.”
Dixon was among six girls in Casner’s troop to shadow Jackson County government officials.
After having lunch together, each of the girls was paired with a county official to learn about their job. Other officials participating were Sheriff Rick Meyer, Jail Matron Linda Jo Brown, Assessor Katie Kaufman, Recorder Amanda Lowery, Clerk Melissa Hayes and Jackson Superior Court I Judge AmyMarie Travis.
Casner worked with Jackson County Commissioner Drew Markel to plan the day for the girls.
To earn Girl Scout badges, the girls worked with the county officials to learn about what it means to be an active citizen, look into old, current and new and upcoming laws and find a common ground through mediation and civil debate. They also learned about the structure of county government and what it takes to address issues, problems, changes and compromise within the community.
MacTavish and Travis spoke to the girls during lunch about some of those topics.
“The advantage to civil mediation for our community is that it can help people get along better without the angst and anger that sometimes bringing something all the way into the court system has,” Travis said.
Being a former Girl Scout herself, Travis said she appreciated the opportunity to share how the organization impacted her.
She was born with dyslexia, a learning disability that makes it difficult for people to learn to read.
“I had a first-grade teacher that was amazing, and through Girl Scouts and Brownies, I got really, really involved and really increased my confidence, and I also went through visual training to learn to read better,” Travis said.
“I learned that my secret superpower was that although I was a slow reader, my comprehension level was really amazing,” she said. “So I usually learned how to read stuff once, whereas other people had to read things two or three times, and I didn’t have to study for as long because even though it took me longer to read, once I read it, it was in there.”
At Travis’ law school graduation, her first-grade teacher told her she didn’t know how far she would be able to go with having dyslexia, especially since she had to read about 500 pages a week in law school.
Travis, though, went on to become the only female in major crimes in the prosecutor’s office, and then was the county’s first female prosecutor and now is the county’s first female judge.
“I talk to you about that not because like, ‘I’m cool. Look what I achieved.’ I talk to you about that because each of us has some type of hardship or disability that’s a little hard for us,” Travis said.
“Maybe you are a shy public speaker. Maybe we don’t feel perfectly confident in everything we do,” she said. “But you’re involved with Girl Scouts, and through the badge system of achieving one little step at a time, you can overcome whatever you want to overcome, and then you can be in whatever you want to be in.”
At the end of the event, all of the Girl Scouts gathered in Travis’ courtroom, where Markel talked about his position as commissioner and how he and the other two commissioners work together to serve their districts and also collaborate with the county council.
“We as commissioners don’t control any of the budget. We can do things that cause the council to pull their hair out,” he joked. “Like we can decide to buy things, and then they have to decide how to pay for it, so it can be kind of an interesting relationship between the commissioners and the council, so we work very closely with the council to make sure we don’t say yes to something that causes their day to be really bad.”
As the girls reach the voting age, Markel encouraged them to talk to those running for office.
“Just ask them what their values and beliefs are, and then vote for the person you believe will hold your beliefs when they make decisions for the county,” he said.
“A lot of people aren’t willing to ask questions of their government, and when you do that, you can’t better understand what goes on,” he said. “I would say with our elected officials, our public is highly educated with what goes on in Jackson County through the use of social media, through the use of just having people coming to the courthouses and asking questions. That’s one area I think Jackson County does very well.”
Casner said her Girl Scouts have served as pages at the Statehouse in Indianapolis and sat in on a Seymour Oktoberfest meeting. At that meeting, the board included the girls in their conversation.
“They said, ‘What would you do to make the Oktoberfest better?’ because they are the next generation that’s going to be taking care of us,” Casner said. “They are going to be the next people that are the elected officials, so you’ve got to get them involved in it.”
Edwards said Girl Scouts in County Government Day was a great way for the girls to see if a job in government interests them.
“For them to get in early and to see what they want to do and be, I think it’s great because I’m kind of wishing I would have explored a little more, and I didn’t as a kid, so I think it’s a great opportunity,” she said.
Edwards said she once considered becoming a lawyer, grew up seeing her grandmother serve in elected positions and shadowed officials.
She was happy to allow Dixon to see what a judge, an attorney and a bailiff do.
“At least she’s getting a taste of it and she can decide,” Edwards said. “Even if she doesn’t want to do that, at least she knows how her community works and how we do things.”
Girl Scout Shalei Brooks shadowed Hayes and then spent some time learning about Travis’ courtroom.
“I went to the courtroom and I didn’t get to be in there for very long, but it was pretty cool getting to stand in there,” she said. “It was cool to see how everything works. I learned a lot, and it was really fun.”
Casner ended the day by thanking all of the officials for making the event possible.
“I want to thank all of you guys for taking the time out of your day. I know that there’s stuff sitting and piling up, but you took the time to work with these individuals,” she said. “I hope that you guys would be willing … a year down the road if we do it again. Maybe we can expand it to have more people involved, as well.”
[sc:pullout-title pullout-title=”At a glance” ][sc:pullout-text-begin]
Girl Scouts in County Government Day
Girl Scout;Title for the day
Lorelai Dixon;Judge and commissioner
Macy Casner;Deputy sheriff and jail officer