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Governor’s Award goes to expert in dispute resolutions

Wednesday, May. 7 | By Julie Taylor
Jim Smith, Jr. has dedicated his retired years to resolving custody-type disputes outside the courtroom as a mediator for Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center.

At a special ceremony at the Governor's Mansion on April 10, Smith received a Governor's Volunteerism and Community Service Award from Gov. Terry McAuliffe. Smith is one of seven people so honored across the state.

"A very proud occasion for mediation throughout the commonwealth and Piedmont Dispute Resolution Center, and Jim Smith of course," said Lawrie Parker, executive director of the dispute resolution center.

Smith has volunteered an average of 40 hours a week to mediation over the last eight years. He always works with the difficult cases that come from Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Courts of Fauquier, Culpeper, and Stafford, Parker said.

Smith typically works with families on issues like custody, visitation, and child and spousal support. Smith travels over 20,000 miles a year for meetings, sometimes even going into jails for mediation, and always refuses reimbursement. A normal year holds over 250 cases.

As a foster parent, he sees the importance in working with parents to help them continue to give love and support to their children.

"Since 2006, Jim has made significant contributions to building relationships between separating parents and their children," Parker said in her nomination letter for Smith. "He commits his time and talents to managing a discussion process through which parents develop mutual commitments to action."

But Parker wasn't the only one that touted the good qualities of Smith.

Marlene Hahn, independent contractor and volunteer at the dispute resolution center, wrote in a nomination letter, "I respect his commitment to mediation and appreciate his dedication to the work he does—all because he cares and wants to make children safer and give them an opportunity for a better life."

"He's an extraordinarily unique person," said Meryem Grammick, one of the mediators at PDRC.

Selection Criteria

Recipients of the Governor's Community Service and Volunteerism Awards exemplify the following characteristics:

Engage in the creation, organization, and/or mobilization of volunteers, groups and resources that are involved in projects benefiting the greater community.

Demonstrate sustained commitment to meeting community needs.

Utilize unique and creative approaches to meeting needs.

Develop and foster the virtues and skills of civic engagement and social responsibility.

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