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Kayla Jackson-Williams wins Division 10 associate circuit judge seat

Columbia attorney Kayla Jackson-Williams was elected Tuesday as associate circuit judge for Division 10, and when she takes the bench Jan. 1 she will be the first Black judge in Boone County.

Although Tuesday’s election was a primary, Jackson-Williams’ victory on the Democratic side of the ballot was essentially a win in the November general election, too, as there will be no Republican candidate in the race.

Jackson-Williams won with 7,367 votes, claiming 51% of the total, according to the Boone County clerk’s office. She defeated Angela Peterson, an attorney for Columbia Family Law Group LLC., by 193 votes.

Jackson-Williams currently serves as an attorney for Rogers Ehrhardt law firm. She will begin her duties as an associate circuit judge Jan 1.

With music, board games, hors d’oeuvres and a small group of her closest friends and their kids, Jackson-Williams nervously anticipated the results at her home in Columbia.

“Like I have said before, what is for me is for me and now I’m a judge. It’s just unreal,” Jackson-Williams said of the final result, while tears ran down her face.

This was Jackson-Williams’ first time running for the position. She will replace Leslie Schneider, who has served on the bench since 2006.

An associate circuit judge serves for four years. Division 10 primarily handles family law cases such as juvenile, divorce, and adult abuse and neglect.

Throughout her campaign up until election day, Jackson-Williams highlighted her experience through various areas of the law.

She practiced family law at the Stange Law Firm in Columbia after earning her law degree at MU in 2016. She then practiced criminal law at the Missouri State Public Defender’s Office from 2017 to 2019 before joining Rogers Ehrhardt firm in 2020.

Jackson-Williams has said her diverse legal background will help her fulfill her duties as the new Division 10 associate circuit judge.

As soon as the final results were made public, her mother and her friends screamed in unison and celebrated, and Jackson-Williams phone started to overflow with phone calls from her supporters.

Jackson-Williams felt happy and proud to be the first Black elected judge in Boone and Callaway county, and referenced U.S. Supreme Court judge Ketanji Brown-Jackson and Missouri Supreme Court judge Robin Ransom as inspirations.

She also said she enjoyed the process of campaigning and experiencing it with her daughter Mackenzie. “I’ve really enjoyed meeting people in our community. I’ve learned a lot about myself and I’ve grown a lot,” she said.

One of the biggest lessons from her campaign was finding her voice and learning restraint within that voice, Jackson-Williams said.

“There had been a lot of not so great comments that I might have responded to in the past, but I now realize that at times, that does not require a response.”

Jackson-Williams said her plan is to sit down with all the judges as she did before deciding to run.

She is eager to get ready to fulfill her duties and shadow Schneider “as early as possible,” she said, as she saw other judges do prior to them leaving the bench.

“They came in not knowing what to expect and now they are excelling,” she said.

Rebecca Franklin, Jackson-Williams’ mother, said she is extremely proud of her daughter, which she pushed to be the best she could be. “When I asked her if she would ever run for judge she said no, but I saw it in her. She is humble, intelligent and she is mine,” Franklin said in tears.

The Columbia Missourian is a community news organization managed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.