Fillmore County welcomes new court administrator

GRETCHEN MENSINK LOVEJOY/BLUFF COUNTRY NEWSPAPER GROUP Becky Brandt is the new court administrator for the Third Judicial District Court. She began her duties in June, shortly after former administrator James Attwood retired on June 3 after 31 years in the position.
Gretchen Mensink Lovejoy

Becky Brandt knew, when accepting her new position as Fillmore County’s new Third Judicial District court administrator, that she had big shoes to fill. Retiring administrator James Attwood has served the court for 31 years before retiring on June 3 of this year. Brandt stepped in on June 4.

Brandt describes herself as being a motivated and high-energy person. “I have to achieve or accomplish something every day, like working out, coming home and cleaning the garage after work, getting something off my checklist done,” she said.

And it’s that same hit-the-road motivation to get things done that will serve her well in the court administrator’s office.

Brandt outlined her career, “I have traditionally been with the judicial branch. I spent 21 years in Olmsted County – I started there on April 15, 1998, – in Olmsted County District Court and worked in the juvenile division and also went to court for juvenile judges. I worked for all the judges, and I became a backup court assistant clerk, and I’d be in the courtroom getting everything organized and set up for the next judge, do orders, swearing in, then they moved me to the civil area – that’s when they first wanted people to specialize, then they decided cross-training was what they’d like to do – where I handled domestic abuse, harassment, evictions, commitments and more and was the front counter person, assisting customers at the counter as well.”

Brandt also worked with several judges in the family and child support area. She became a court assistant to two different judges and then was promoted to court operations supervisor on the criminal finance team.

“When Jim decided to retire, I thought ‘I can’t pass that up.’ It’s an opportunity to spend the rest of my years in the judicial branch, in an area I love,” she said. “I’m lucky to serve at the pleasure of the bench of the Third Judicial District.”

Brandt went on to further introduce herself and how she laced up her shoes as a young Grand Meadow High School graduate who’d been active in Grand Meadow sports activities.

“I graduated from Grand Meadow, then I went on to trade school at the Minnesota School of Business in Minneapolis and became a legal secretary for 12 years in the Cities, then I moved to California, but in 1986, I moved back to raise my daughter who’s now 32 – I didn’t know anybody out in California, and with two sisters, two brothers and my mom and dad here, it was easier to raise a baby.”

After returning from California, she worked at Saint Marys in various roles, including foodservice, transfusion medicine, bed placement.

“At the same time, I was going to school to be a juvenile probation agent, and that’s when I got hired at the judicial branch in Olmsted County,” Brandt said.

She acknowledged that had it not been for her daughter and her boyfriend not agreeing on how parenting should work, she might be a law enforcement officer instead of an employee of the court.

“She was 9, and my boyfriend was not sure about parenting, and they both begged me to quit. I started working at the courthouse instead, so I’m a few credits short of my associate’s. That’s proof that work experience really does matter,” she added.

Brandt now lives outside of Rochester with her son, an upcoming Mayo High School senior, and her husband, who is a commercial flooring installer.

She anticipates commuting to Preston to serve the public in her new capacity for as long as it takes to fill Attwood’s shoes, and to do it in a fair manner.

“I’m looking forward towards working with the Fillmore County family,” Brandt added. “We eat lunch together every day…the judge and all the staff. They’ve been doing that for years, and this really is a Fillmore County family. I’m moving from a big court to a smaller court, and I get to motivate, energize and lead people effectively and efficiently and make sure that the public gets high quality customer service.”

She spoke about how the judicial branch fulfills its duties and related that it is the “middle” between Fillmore County residents and the judges who decide what becomes of someone or their property. The judicial branch is responsible for assuring that justice is made available to everyone, and that while the county court systems have functioned on their own for decades, change is coming as the counties transition to district court case processing to meet the promise of justice for all.

“Come this fall, we’ll be doing district case processing, instead of each county processing cases. With the demographics of the judicial branch changing – the baby boomers are retiring from the judicial branch, meaning we’re losing a lot of senior court workers – the state has a ‘one court’ vision,” Brandt explained. “It’s a new area, so if we have an order coming through, it could be anybody in the third district out of ten counties, you as a customer receive the same kind of customer service as someone who lives in Roseau or Fillmore County. We’ll do the things that have to be locally processed, but we’ll get the work done more consistently and get to the point where it’s a well-oiled machine. There’ll be bumps along the way, but we’ll have high quality customer service.”

Brandt elaborated further on the concept of “customer service” in justice. “I always think of it as ‘customer service,’ because when hiring new people, I think about ‘Do they have customer service experience?’ to give the same treatment and same respect to everybody. We’re non-judgmental, we want to treat people the same and give them the service they need.”

She shared that she’s glad to take part in the district’s offering veterans’ court for members of the military who’ve had difficulties and have to stand in court.

“We also have veterans’ court – once we get federal grant money, we’re planning a veterans’ court ribbon-cutting,” Brandt said. “Hopefully, that’ll start in October, because I really want the people who’ve served our country to have access to treatment court. Veteran’s court is something we should have. The veterans put their lives on the line, and they deserve to have a veterans’ court.”

Brandt, who spends her free time camping, kayaking and jogging before she can put her heels down under a desk or sit on the deck watching the stars, feels fortunate to be part of the work to serve Olmsted, Fillmore, Houston and Winona counties through the eastern division of the district court, while western counties’ needs will be met in Steele County.

“I just want to do a good job. I’ve been around for about two months, and I want to build relationships,” Brandt concluded. “Jim was here for over 31 years…I want to build relationships and make sure everything runs smooth. There’s a lot of responsibility – technical, compliance – and I want to do a really good job. I love what I do 110 percent. I love working in the judicial branch.”