Changing of the guard: Jeremy O. Ford is sworn in as the new Greenlee County Superior Court Judge

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Judge Jeremy O. Ford is sworn in as Greenlee County Superior Court Judge on Friday.

By Jon Johnson

Jon Johnson Video/Gila Herald

CLIFTON – After 24 years there’s going to be a new face on the bench as the head of justice for Greenlee County come January; Jeremy O. Ford was sworn in as the new Greenlee County Superior Court Judge on Friday by outgoing Greenlee Superior Court Judge Monica L. Stauffer. 

The ceremony took place in a packed historic Greenlee County Superior Courtroom and was attended by various dignitaries, friends, family, and co-workers.

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: After 24 years, Judge Monica L. Stauffer has retired effective Dec. 31, 2022.

Judge Ford served as the Greenlee County Attorney previous to running for and being elected judge.  

Former Greenlee County Attorney Derek Rapier (who handpicked Ford as his successor in the Attorney’s Office) spoke at the ceremony and talked about outgoing Judge Stauffer, who he spent most of his career practicing in front of. 

“She is outstanding,” he said. “Her stature among her peers is second to none . . . Judge Stauffer, prior to taking the bench, had, I think without question, the most successful private practice in Greenlee County in probably 50 years. She was the go-to attorney – particularly in the area of family law. Parties would race to get to her first. That’s a great compliment to her stature in our community, and I’ve appreciated the legacy she has left.”

Rapier then spoke about Ford and said he was surprised with the quality of attorney Ford is. 

“I was not a top-10 percent kind of person in law school, Jeremy Ford was,” Rapier said. “And those kinds of folks are highly recruited by the largest and most respected law firms in any state coming out of a prestigious law school like ASU.”

Prior to swearing Ford in, Judge Stauffer told Judge Ford the four most important things that “belong to a judge; take her courteously, answer wisely, to consider soberly, and to decide impartially. My best to you.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Gila County Superior Court Judge Timothy M. Wright, right, presents incoming Greenlee County Superior Court Judge Jeremy O. Ford with his nameplate.

After the administering of the oath of office, Judge Ford donned his judge’s robes with the assistance of his wife, Wendy, whom he attributed with having the idea of moving to Greenlee County in the first place. 

“Greenlee County has been a truly incredible community full of some of the best people I’ve ever met,” Judge Ford said. “The opportunities to work here and be a mentor here, have been nothing short of incredible. I got to work along with and for some of the best people I’ve ever known.”

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Newly minted Judge Jeremy O. Ford gets assistance from his wife, Wendy, in donning the judicial robe.

Judge Ford also thanked his mother and grandmothers, and his wife, Wendy, for dedicating their lives to raising large families and helping others be successful. 

Judge Ford was presented with two nameplates, one for the courtroom and one for his office, and two gavels, one from Judge Stauffer that might get used, and one from Greenlee Investigator Eric Ellison and the County Attorney’s Office that will likely be just for show. 

“It’s really hard to understand Greenlee County by driving through it,” Judge Ford said. “You may see a wonderful hole in the ground, you may see some great farms, and you may ask, ‘why would people want to live here?’ I believe it’s beautiful, but I’ve always said Greenlee County is about the people. And until you stay here, and until you know the people, you’ll never truly understand Greenlee County. Because this is where wonderful people are. This is where wonderful community is. And I am truly honored to have the opportunity to serve here.”   

Jon Johnson Photo/Gila Herald: Greenlee County Investigator Eric Ellison, right, presents Judge Jeremy O. Ford with a novelty gavel.