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First black female circuit court judge elected in Palm Beach County

Posted at 7:14 PM, Nov 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-07 19:14:39-05

These days it's hard to catch Maxine Cheesman without a smile.

"It's amazing it's very overwhelming," she said. 

Cheesman is talking about her new title.

"When I get sworn I will be Judge Cheeseman."

The first black female Circuit Court Judge elected in Palm Beach County and Cheesman says getting here wasn't easy.

"I didn't think at the time I could ever run for politics," she said. 

Born and raised in Jamaica Cheesman and her family moved to Florida shortly after she graduated college. She says crime in her neighborhood was getting out of control. 

"They robbed us one day it was a devastating experience," Cheesman recalled. 

So she moved to south Florida for a fresh start or as she calls it a culture shock.

"Every time I said something they would say what? Because of the accent, they were not accustomed to the accent," she said. "Coming here I didn't have a whole lot of money or anything what would I have to give?"

The answer a lot. For a couple of decades Cheesman worked as a scientist for the South Florida Water Management District then everything changed.

"I call it my midlife crisis to follow my passion this great country of ours we can go back to school at any age," she said. "I got my law degree just as I hit 40."

Now she will serve a circuit court judge just one of many women elected this year.

"We can make a change and we can be different," Sandra Turnquest said. 

Turnquest is the former president of the Executive Women of Palm Beaches the organization empowers young women to go for high power positions.

"The record-breaking number for me represents that change is coming to America to the state of Florida and the change is good," she said.

As for Cheesman she will be sworn in as a judge in January. She says she's looking forward to starting this new chapter of her life.

"Thank you for putting your trust in me," she said. "Thank you for understanding my heart and seeing who I really am."