On a beautiful Friday morning in front of the historic Osceola County Courthouse, Osceola Woman Magazine had the opportunity to sit down with Christine Arendas, candidate for Osceola County Judge. In this article, you will get to know the only female in this race and explore her passion for our community and her desire to become a judge, which began for her at the age of nine years old.
Mrs. Arendas has been a Florida resident since she was nine. She is a graduate of Cocoa Beach High School, where she was a member of the JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps). Despite her father being an Army veteran who served in both Vietnam and Desert Storm and having a brother who is in the Army Reserves, the military was not something she planned for her future. Instead, with her sights already set on law school, she joined the JROTC to begin developing and strengthening her leadership skills. Her senior year of high school, she was the Brigade Commander for four high schools. She also was on the JROTC Drill Team and Color Guard, played softball and was a member of the swim and dive team. Following high school, she enrolled at Brevard Community College (now Eastern Florida State College) and received her Associate of Arts. Mrs. Arendas then transferred to the University of Central Florida to complete her bachelor’s degree in business administration with an emphasis on economics. She continued on to Barry University Orlando School of Law, where she obtained her Juris Doctorate degree.
While attending college and law school she worked as a paralegal for a family law attorney. Upon graduating she continued working for the attorney who had bought the practice. In 2008, she “hung her shingle” and started her own practice. During this time Mrs. Arendas received her mediation certification and became a Florida Supreme Court Certified Circuit Civil Mediator and handled numerous civil matters, such as foreclosures, debt collection, probate, adoption, and breach of contracts. In late 2009 she was approached by her former law partner and was asked to join her practice. Mrs. Arendas agreed and was initially supposed to shadow her, but unfortunately her former law partner’s husband passed away two days before she began at the office. Mrs. Arendas showed up Monday morning with a confident “can-do” attitude, determined to be successful even without having ever practiced that type of law before. She succeeded, and two years later she became board certified as an adoption attorney and is one of twenty-nine certified adoption attorneys in the state of Florida. She is also a Fellow of the Academy of Adoption and Assisted Reproduction Attorneys, which is a national organization that recognizes experts in adoption and assisted reproduction. In 2014 Mrs. Arendas was voted in as the executive director of A Chosen Child, a non-profit Christian adoption agency. She served in that position, while running her law practice, until 2017 when she made the decision to begin pursuing judgeship.
“It’s an internal feeling; everything about who I am fits with being a judge” was the answer Mrs. Arendas gave when asked what factors influenced that decision. “I’m actively involved in my community, I give back to my community on a regular basis, I provide pro-bono services to folks in need, and I serve on various boards.” The particular seat she is running for in the county court is commonly referred to as the “people’s court” and often deals with people without representation. As this involves dealing with people in more of a one-on-one setting, she feels that her patience, understanding and longing to serve the community, makes her a perfect fit to fill Judge Draper’s seat upon her retirement.
When it comes to her community involvement, Mrs. Arendas has quite the impressive resume. She has been involved with the Boy Scouts for over a decade, serving with Cub Scout Pack 69 as Den Leader, Treasurer, and Committee Chair, and when her son was old enough to go into Boy Scouts they joined Troop 192 in St. Cloud, where she was asked to be an Assistant Scout Master. A couple of years later she also served as a Unit Commissioner for the District, working as a liaison between assigned troops and packs and the district. She is currently an Assistant Scoutmaster for Troop 192 as well as a Merit Badge Counselor for the district, helping teach citizenship, swimming, law, entrepreneurship, sustainability, and various other civic and life skills type badges. Additionally she volunteers with the Troop to collect food every November which is provided to the local food pantry, serves with the Troop at the annual Spring Fling and she volunteers serving meals through Elmer’s Kitchen. She has also served on various boards for numerous athletic associations and helped organize a travel ball team in St. Cloud.
Mrs. Arendas is one of the founders as well as the secretary for IDignity Osceola, a sub-program of the Community Hope Center which helps people obtain their ID’s and the legal documents needed for them to get their ID’s. Over the last two years they have served over 1,200 people. In addition to serving on the board she also volunteers at the events and serves as their legal lead. Recently she was asked to serve on the Community Hope Center Board, aiding homeless and low-income families. Since 2009, Mrs. Arendas has been an active volunteer with the Osceola County Teen Court program, allowing her to provide mentorship to both the young adults serving as teen attorneys as well as those going through the program, which she finds extremely rewarding.
She was the Treasurer of the Central Florida Association for Women Lawyers and President in 2010-2011. She currently serves on the Central Florida Family Law Inns of Court, the Florida Adoption Council, the Ninth Circuit Pro Bono Committee, the Ninth Circuit Professionalism Committee, she is the Vice Chair of the Legal Aid Society of Osceola County, and is involved with our local Bar. “I feel we not only have the opportunity to give back, but also the responsibility. That has always been part of who I am.”
She has been married to her high school sweetheart Kurt for 22 years. Kurt served in the Marine Corps until he was injured and received an honorable discharge, from there he worked as a state correctional officer at a prison for 13 ½ years. He then went on to work for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission until retiring in 2016. They have two children-Cole, who is 16 and attends St. Cloud High School, and Claire, who is 20 and is a graduate of Osceola High School attending college. “We don’t have Gators and Seminoles in our house, we have Kowboys and Bulldogs”, Mrs. Arendas joked. They have two dogs, Baby and Gizmo, as well as a bearded dragon named Buddy. Whenever she has some down time she enjoys spending it with her family, being outside, going to theme parks, or scrapbooking. The family came to Osceola County in 2006, when Kurt was assigned to come here while working for FWC, and they quickly made this community their home. She feels very passionate that the opportunity to become Judge is the next step to take in furthering her already extensive involvement in serving the community.
Mrs. Arendas feels that her upbringing is what shaped her into who she is today and placed her passion for her family and her community into her heart. Coming from a broken family, she said that she is incredibly fortunate to have ended up where she is today. Her experience allows her to really relate to people going through difficult times, especially young adults, and gives her the opportunity to let them know that they are in control of the decisions that are ultimately going to determine the course of their life. Her family moved here when her mom divorced her first stepfather, and she was separated from her siblings. She was being raised by a single mother who was almost always working, therefore leaving little time for parenting and supervision. Mrs. Arendas said she recognized she could go one of two directions with her life and became the first in her family to not only attend college, but also the first to end up with an upper level degree. The separation of her family at such a young age led her to wanting to be a protector, someone who is there to guide and help people.
Her judicial philosophy is referred to as “procedural justice”, which is where you give the people appearing in your court their own voice and let them be heard. You make sure they understand the process, remain neutral and unbiased, and treat everyone with the same amount of respect. Mrs. Arendas has extensive knowledge of the resources available to help people and would bring that knowledge to the bench with her, allowing her to help people while administering and upholding the law. “My commitment is that I will follow the law” she said, “but while following the law I will also treat everyone with utmost respect.”
Mrs. Arendas said campaigning has been hectic but fun and has granted her opportunities to meet numerous people she would not have otherwise met. She has gotten to hear concerns, praises, and ideas, while also getting to educate people on the judicial process. One of the areas she has really gotten to elaborate on is how judicial races are different than other races in the fact that they are non-partisan. Judicial candidates and Judges are governed by judicial ethics and “judicial canons” and are not allowed to take a personal position on issues, especially those that may be brought before them. A judge’s party affiliation does not play a role while on the bench, their duty is to follow and administer justice according to the law.
To learn more about Christine Arendas, a true champion for our community, you can visit her campaign website, arendasforjudge.com, or go “like” her Facebook page Arendas for Judge. Most importantly, do not forget to GO VOTE on August 28th!