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Assistant Polk County attorney, Romonda Belcher-Ford 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.”

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Belcher-Ford grew up in Plymouth, North Carolina, 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, Recorder and General Services. She defends the county against civil rights complaints, small-claims actions. 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 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.”

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