Monica Purdy: Educating on developing a voice and using it
Updated: Sep 9, 2021
Judge Monica Purdy was elected to the 95th District Court in Dallas County this past November with record breaking numbers, securing over 64% of the popular vote.
Although Judge Purdy was born in Columbus, Ohio and raised in Tampa, Florida, she has spent the majority of her life living and working in Texas. Growing up in a middle-class neighborhood full of doctors, lawyers and teachers that was adjacent to neighborhoods full of blue-collar workers struggling to provide for their families prompted Judge Purdy to develop a keen awareness of the disparity within the class system. Although there wasn’t a specific moment Judge Purdy recalls being first exposed to politics, politics and current events were a constant topic of discussion within her home from a young age. Such discussions instilled an interest in politics and the legal field in Judge Purdy at an early age and led to her volunteering within her godfathers’ campaign for state representative. Purdy’s godfather, Warren Pope Dawson, a successful attorney within her area, was her first major role model. She recalled, “I noticed from an early age how people responded to him, and how I understood what he did. As a child, it was explained to me by my mother that he spoke for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. As a child, I thought this was very powerful, and knew I wanted to speak for those who couldn’t speak for themselves as well.” Purdy knew she wanted to be a part of something meaningful and was inspired to become a lawyer at a young age. Although Mr. Dawson did not win the seat he ran for, Purdy’s take away from working on his campaign was to be resilient, and to not stop trying to reach her goals.
Although Judge Purdy balances her career as a judge with being a mom and wife, she noted that being a mom is her most important role, and that her children come first above anything else. Purdy noted that as women, it is always difficult to find the appropriate balance between maintaining a successful career and a healthy home life. “It’s tough to do, but my advice is to make sure you honor and uphold your duties at all times, and learn to discern between that which is important, and that which is not. It’s a balancing act all the way around, but something women are used to, and judges especially.” As a mother of two, Purdy and her husband have learned to be very intentional in how they spend their time and have balanced their home life and careers by supporting each other in everything, and Judge Purdy says, “finding a way to put in the extra hours it takes to help the other achieve whatever they are striving for professionally.”
This past year, Dallas County saw record breaking voter turnout. On November 3, 2020, Judge Purdy was elected to the seat of 95th District Judge for Dallas County. Judge Purdy described winning this election as the highlight of her career so far, saying “to see such a high turnout and that 64% of those individuals thought I was the appropriate person to fill this seat was such a high moment." Although Judge Purdy took the seat as District Judge for Dallas County recently, she has substantial experience serving as a judge. Purdy took on the position as a municipal court judge for the city of Dallas in 2010, prompted by the desire to find a career option in which she could find fulfillment and also have more flexibility as a parent. “I had been practicing law for a while and had risen through the ranks at my law firm. I was in a good place, but I knew I wanted to be very intentional as a parent. When I became a mom- I didn’t want to miss out on all these important moments with my kids. Flexibility became an incredibly important attribute within a job for me.” Judge Purdy was appointed by city council to the seat of Municipal Court Judge and worked part time within this role for three years. Following this time, a position as a judge for Dallas County opened up, and Judge Purdy rose to the challenge, knowing she wanted to eventually run for office as a district judge one day.
Purdy’s advice to those seeking to run for office is that there is never a perfect time to run. “If you know you want an elected position, then you need to make it happen. Don’t wait for a sign to do so, because it will never come.” Purdy noted that she benefitted incredibly from the guidance and support of her mentors and classmates from law school who had also been through the process of campaigning for an office. She emphasized the importance of networking and developing professional relationships wherein there is mutual support towards helping each other achieve career goals.
Purdy is especially passionate about educating her community about the importance of voting or said slightly differently, having a voice. Large portions of local communities fail to understand the importance of voting, especially within local elections. “Voting for president is great, but it’s just as important to know who you are voting for as district attorney, judge, county commissioner, and city council. Local seats like these tend to have a more direct impact on the individual lives of community members.”
Like many women, Judge Purdy has experienced moments of difficulty within her career that she has had to overcome. “I don’t think I have ever experienced blatant gender discrimination, but I have definitely experienced weird things-because I am a woman, because I’m younger, or perceived as less smart. I have learned to overcome these moments by always being overly prepared, well versed, and accurate in what I am saying so that these challenges are incorrect. “There are always going to be challenges, so it is critical to have control and knowledge over what you are doing and saying.”
Judge Purdy concluded with a piece of closing advice to the next generation of women.
“We know as women there are going to be challenges. I think many of the women coming behind me will experience many of the same things I have. You can’t control these things, but you can control what you know. You have to know your audience and always be prepared. If you know what you are talking about and can deliver on your results, your professional brand becomes invaluable.”