In her nineteen years serving as an advocate for justice, she has done everything it takes to be qualified for the position of Circuit Court Judge with a very diverse legal back ground. Polo’s varied legal experience serving as a state prosecutor and private practitioner has provided her with a strong foundation to serve the citizens of Hillsborough County as a Circuit Court Judge. Polo has tried hundreds of cases to verdict before both judges and juries. In addition, active practices in both civil and criminal law provide her with an acute familiarity with the rules of evidence, civil procedure and criminal procedure. Moreover, Polo has practiced in multiple counties and circuits. All of these experiences have provided her with a well-rounded perspective to utilize in a judicial role.
Latin Times Media: What is your Hispanic cultural history -where did your familia come from?
Melissa “Missy” Polo: Cuba and Sicily. I come from a lineage of working class immigrants who have served this community for three generations as small business owners, teachers, firefighters, plumbers, doctors, dentists and cigar factory workers.
My paternal grandfather, Silvio Polo, Sr., immigrated to this country from Cuba at the age of 14 with nothing to his name. He learned English, put himself through school, started a family and built his own surgical supply and equipment business. My Papa was compelled to share his success with others and serve his community. In 1971, alongside Reverend Jim Holmes, the pastor at his church, Papa worked to start the area’s premier provider of free healthcare, The Judeo-Christian Health Clinic. Today, the Clinic continues to provide hope and access to healthcare, recording just under 40,000 patient visits last year alone. The beginning of the Clinic’s Mission Statement is a testament to my grandfather’s belief “that we should do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with our God…”
My maternal great-grandfather, Salvatore Spoto, came from similar immigrant stock. Upon arriving in the United States from Santo Stefano, Sicily, he opened a business, Spoto’s Men’s Shop, worked alongside his family to make it a success and generously gave back to the Community. My Nana (maternal grandmother) is also from Cuba.
I was brought up to value the importance of family, education, loyalty, hard work and community involvement.
Latin Times Media: What does being a Latina leader mean to you?
Melissa “Missy” Polo: Being Latina for me is a reminder of the courage, perseverance and sacrifices my grandparents struggled through so that I was afforded better opportunities. I was raised in a diverse community of individuals who taught me the importance of faith and family and the value of hard work, justice, community service and respect for others, regardless of their race, religion or socioeconomic backgrounds. Strong leaders in our community are those who are tolerant, compassionate, who can keep an open mind and see the value in different perspectives. Being Latina is part of my identity through its unifying culture, faith, history and tradition. It is extremely important that I celebrate my heritage and carry it with me not only in my profession but wherever I go.
Latin Times Media: Why did you decide to run for judge?
Melissa “Missy” Polo: I am a third generation Tampa native and lifelong resident of Hillsborough County who was raised in a highly respected, close knit and loving family. From an early age, it was instilled in me to serve the community I live in as a way of giving back. My ancestors who emigrated from Cuba and Sicily to the United States passed along a tradition of hard work, integrity, respect, compassion and community service. These same principles have guided my successful law practice for over 20 years and are equally important to the legitimacy of our legal system and public confidence in a fair and impartial judiciary. I am passionate about the law and my hometown along with being committed to public service and the administration of justice. My passion for the law began at a young age. Through the years, I was able to observe and be mentored by distinguished lawyers and judges which influenced my decision to attend law school. As a result of their encouragement, I am seizing the opportunity to run in this open circuit court seat and carry out my commitment to serve our community the most effective way I know how. For those reasons, I am seeking judicial office.
Latin Times Media: Is this your first run for this position?
Melissa “Missy” Polo: No, I ran for this position one time prior in 2014, losing by 1.25 %.
Latin Times Media: What qualifications and skills do you feel you would bring to this position?
Melissa “Missy” Polo: In my twenty years serving as an advocate for justice, I have done everything it takes to be qualified for the position of Circuit Court Judge with a very diverse legal back ground. My varied legal experience serving as a state prosecutor and private practitioner have provided me with a strong foundation to serve the citizens of Hillsborough County as a Circuit Court Judge. I have tried hundreds of cases to verdict before both judges and juries. In addition, active practices in both civil and criminal law provide me with an acute familiarity with the rules of evidence, civil procedure and criminal procedure. Moreover, I have practiced in multiple counties and circuits. All of these experiences have provided me with a well-rounded perspective to utilize in a judicial role.
In the past, local news media have commented on my judicial qualifications. For example, The Tampa Tribune said I have a thoughtful and deliberate manner appropriate for the bench. The Tampa Times said “Polo has a firm grasp on all areas of the law and is keenly aware of the need for the courts to handle cases in a timely manner. She has a strong sense of fairness and an even-keel temperament that would command order and respect in the courtroom.” Another news editor has said that I have a wide range of legal experience, am intelligent and efficient. Adding that my professional manner would serve the community well on the bench and I would make a good judge. I have tremendous respect for others and for the legal profession. As such, if elected, I vow is to serve the citizens of Hillsborough County by applying the law established by the legislature and appellate courts, and by effectively managing the large volume of cases filed in our circuit.
Latin Times Media: Why should voters vote for you?
Melissa “Missy” Polo: I am the most qualified in my race. My life’s work has been in the courthouse and courtroom working with judges, prosecutors, public defenders, peers, clerks, bailiffs and victims. I’ve learned the applicable law prosecuting and defending hundreds of cases in which circuit court judges preside over (Probate, Criminal Felonies, Juvenile Delinquency and Dependency, Family and Civil matters over $15,000). My legal acumen coupled with my courthouse relationships and community involvement will enable me to run an organized, efficient, respectful and fair courtroom. As the daughter of hard working parents, they instilled in me a sense of faith, family and service, I feel becoming your next circuit court judge is the best way I can give back to this community I love