Home / Travel / Lunch With CASA: Carson City Juvenile District Court Special Master Kimberly Okezie at Taqueria La Salsa
Lunch With CASA: Carson City Juvenile District Court Special Master Kimberly Okezie at Taqueria La Salsa

Lunch With CASA: Carson City Juvenile District Court Special Master Kimberly Okezie at Taqueria La Salsa

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Photo by Brett Fisher. A Teddy bear donated by the Reno Rodeo Foundation and a plate of fish tacos at Taqueria La Salsa.

Kimberly Okezie has loved stuffed animals since she was a child, beginning with a plush koala bear that she says stayed with her into adulthood until time literally unraveled the stitching on the toy.

Now jurist for Nevada’s First Judicial District Juvenile Court in Carson City, Special Master Okezie is personally handing out stuffed animals to children in her courtroom.

“We want to help people who come into our court not feel so traumatized,” said Okezie, who has served five years as the First Judicial District Court Special Master. “We thought of the idea of giving kids something, a book or occasionally when we could, a stuffed animal.”

Then Okezie heard about the Reno Rodeo Foundation’s program, which offers books and stuffed animals to courtrooms throughout the region.

Her courtroom, in fact, just recently received its first delivery of stuffed teddy bears bearing the Reno Rodeo badge.

“We have been able to collaborate with them, and we are very thankful for the Reno Rodeo Foundation,” she said. “Court is a scary place for people, so we try to reduce that as much as we can.”

Okezie explained her love for plush toys over a delicious Mexican meal at Taqueria La Salsa in Carson City, where the special master especially enjoys savoring the restaurant’s fish tacos.

“They have Mahi Mahi, I think, and the cabbage slaw that I love,” she said. “And I love to put their salsa on top of it all!”

In between bites of the decadent fish tacos, Okezie cheerfully engaged questions thought up by Carson City area children.

What Okezie hopes readers will learn about her is that she is a very fun-loving person.

“I’m a person who likes to do fun things,” she said. “I’m out in the community riding go-carts with my family, picking out pumpkins, and going to restaurants in the community.”

The children’s first names and their questions appear below, followed by Special Master Okezie’s responses.

Allison: What inspired you to go into your field of work?

Kimberly: Ever since I was a child, when I heard sirens, I wanted to know what was happening. I wanted to be a part of that.

I always had the drive to go to law school and become a prosecutor. That was my ambition. I became a prosecutor for two years and I loved it. That then introduced me to the world of juvenile court. When the time was right and the position came open, I didn’t hesitate. I knew what I was getting into and I knew I loved making connections with people. Juvenile court provides that opportunity.

Bailey: What made you choose this area (district) of child welfare?

Kimberly: When I came out of law school, I put in applications to become a law clerk. I thought that would be a really great position to start off a law career on.

I interviewed with Judge (James T.) Russell. He offered me the position. Once I met him and his staff, I knew this was the right position for me. And from that day, I have spent a majority of my career here in Carson City.

I absolutely love the people I work with, I love this community, I love the stakeholders that come in and participate. The hearts of the people here are big, and that’s what I appreciate and respect about this area.

Zyler: Why do you want to help kids?

Kimberly: When I accepted this position, I had a lot of people say to me, “how could you do that? How could you work in that field?”

My perspective is, why not? People need somebody to listen to them, and especially children.

I know this is a corny statement, but children are our future. They truly and literally are.

What I saw as a prosecutor was a cycle with families coming into and out of the system. When you have a child come into the system, remain in that system and then become an adult, something has to help end that cycle.

Given the opportunity to work with children, why not? If you can make a difference in a child’s life, there’s not much that’s better than that.

Nicole: What is your favorite color?

Kimberly: I remember being asked that question in elementary school and I thought then that I don’t have an answer to that question, because I like all colors. I still feel the same way. For the sake of this question, though, I would choose UNR (University of Nevada, Reno) blue.

Johnny: What’s your favorite pizza combo?

Kimberly: Barbecue chicken with barbecue sauce, red onions, and cheddar cheese.

Kaelyn: What do you like on your hotdog?

Kimberly: I like ketchup, sweet pickle relish, shredded cheddar cheese and tomatoes.

Gage: If you could trade bodies with anyone in the world, who would it be and why?

Kimberly: I like where I’m at in my life and I love what I do, so that’s a hard question to answer. For fun, though, I would be Batman, because I would get to drive cool vehicles and use cool toys. I’d also be able to make a difference.

Kory: What is your favorite part of your day?

Kimberly: I have a two-part answer. My favorite part of the work day is being in court and making that connection with a family and child. Reunifying a child back with their family is my absolute favorite part of any work day.

My favorite part of the day away from work is just before bedtime. I read at night to my child. It’s that time of the day when nothing else is going on except for that book you are diving into and sharing. There is a calm in the house at that time. It’s a cuddly, warm, family time.

Anonymous: What was your favorite subject in school?

Kimberly: My favorite subject in college was anthropology. I loved it so much that I almost changed majors. What I loved about it was studying people and trying to understand different cultures.

Ally: If you couldn’t be a Judge, where would you be and what would you be doing?

Kimberly: If I couldn’t be a judge, I would most likely go back to being a prosecutor. I’d still be in law. It’s funny because you consider these things when you apply to law school and whether you get in or not. I initially thought about being a marriage and family therapist, so it’s all about people for me! I was actually accepted into the MFT program at UNR, but then I was also accepted into law school.

Anonymous: What do you love most about Nevada?

Kimberly: Nevada is my home. I was born and raised here in Nevada. My mom always told me, once a desert dweller always a desert dweller. I love how open it is here.

When I want trees and forest, I can get there by going just up the road. This place just has everything. The catchphrase “Home Means Nevada” has always been that way for me. My family has been here for generations.

Anonymous: What are your favorite activities to do for Halloween and Nevada Day?

Kimberly: We go to the Nevada Day Parade, and we love that. We carve and decorate pumpkins, cookies, and put up decorations for Halloween. I love to start baking around that time. We have a Halloween Party at my sister’s house. We set up a little grave yard and lots of decorations. We have a pinata for the kids and pumpkin decorating, just a lot of fun stuff.

Okezie said she was thrilled with the questions thought up by children and she hopes her answers help them get to know her a little bit better.

“Thank you to the kiddos and families that took the time to submit their questions,” she said. “I really enjoyed each of the questions.”

We’d love to hear from children and their families in the community. Email us at casacclunch@gmail.com with questions for our guests.

Please remember the questions should be the sort you would ask a person when you want to know them better. We will not field questions related to child welfare issues, and we prefer no questions about the professions of those we interview. All questions submitted will be screened and selected for taste and appropriateness.

Our second guest will be Mark Beguelin, a children’s attorney for Washoe Legal Services. I’ll take a lunch break with Mark and find out more about him! Please submit your questions for Mark by Friday, Nov. 1, 2019.

CASA of Carson City is a local non-profit organization that provides volunteer guardian ad litem services to child welfare clients in Carson City and Storey County. Court-Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) are the voices of children who cannot speak for themselves in family and juvenile court. As dedicated community volunteers, they advocate for the best interests of these children.

For more information on CASA of Carson City and to learn about becoming a volunteer guardian ad litem, visit www.facebook.com/pg/CASAofCC, email casaofcc@earthlink.net, or call (775) 882-6776.

CASA of Carson City holds information hours periodically throughout the year, so please check the organization’s Facebook events calendar and www.carsonnow.org for upcoming dates.