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Rail City Profile: No place she would rather be
by Garrett E. Valenzuela
Jun 26, 2013 | 1911 views | 0 0 comments | 46 46 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Janine Baker
Janine Baker
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SPARKS — Janine Baker was “literally speechless” when the playful antics of Sparks Justice Court Judge Kevin Higgins fooled her to attend a meeting to discuss what style clocks should adorn the walls of the new Sparks court. The meeting was a front to gather all of the court’s staff in the hearing room to present Baker with the Nevada Court Executive of the Year award.

“I had no prior knowledge that this was happening,” Baker said of the high jinks. “I fell for it. I walked in and thought ‘What is going on here?’ Everybody was in there waiting and the state court administrator was there, who I have known for years, and I probably turned white or red trying to figure out what is going on.”

Higgins kept the joke going a bit longer, saying Baker had yet to turn in an accounting document before revealing her name etched into the Nevada Supreme Court plaque for Court Executive of the Year for 2012. Baker examined the respected names who came before her Wednesday morning, saying she was joining a group of rock stars in the administration world and said the company she became a part of meant most to her.

“For me, what hit me first was looking at the names of some of the recipients on here thinking ‘I can’t believe I am on a plaque with these people,’” Baker said. “I am thinking ‘What did I do?’ I just did what I had to do, but I didn’t set out to win an award. I did what had to be done. It was just timing because I don’t know if this was spread out over my 25 years that anyone would have given it a second thought.

“Everything happened within a three-year period with the budget going in the toilet, the new case management system and the new building coming into play. I felt I survived it. I still think anyone else who would have been sitting in this position would have to have done the same thing. I don’t think there was anything special that I did. I was just in the seat at the time.”

Presenters of the award, the Nevada Association of Court Executives, said Baker’s work at the local and state level propelled her to the top of the nominations list. Baker said she has been surrounded by a tremendous team at Sparks Justice Court (SJC), which enabled her to receive the credit for work that was done behind closed doors.

“I am getting the praise for all these projects and things that were done, but I couldn’t do it if I didn’t have the staff to rely on,” Baker said. “If I couldn’t rely on these guys to watch everything and take care of stuff I wouldn’t have had the time to do these things. I would have been working 24-7.

“I can’t give the staff enough praise for their part in all of this. They took pay cuts, but they did their end of it and they worked even harder because we shortened our hours and couldn’t fill positions.”

Baker has spent all 25 of her years working for Washoe County with the Sparks Justice Court and she has lived in Sparks her entire life. A graduate of Sparks High School in 1980, Baker said Sparks and the SJC are both places she never gave thought to leaving.

“I don’t know that I would want to do anything else,” Baker said of her position as Court Administrator. “I enjoy being a public servant and serving the public. Sometimes we interview people for jobs and they really don’t understand that you are here to serve the public. That’s what this duty is and I enjoy that sort of thing.

“I have my days where I am counting the days until retirement, but I have never considered moving to another department in the county. I never have even thought of moving to another court. I wouldn’t even consider it. I think this is the perfect scenario in Washoe County.”

Baker spends her free time away from the SJC tending her “enormous vegetable garden” at her Sparks home. She said though it does take diligence and time, growing her own food keeps her and her husband active and outdoors.

“My husband is out there every day and I try to get out there every day,” she said. “It is a lot of work but we enjoy the benefits of it. There is nothing better than fresh tomatoes or potatoes. It is heaven.”

Baker said her roots run very deep in the Rail City, especially when compounded with her husband’s ties here, and she added that Sparks hosts an atmosphere she has yet to find anywhere else.

“I have never visited any place else that I would want to move to,” Baker said. “I mean there are places I enjoy vacationing, but I could never imagine myself moving there. My husband’s family goes way back to this area too; so we are both very grounded here and it is a beautiful area and it has everything. I still run into people I went to Kindergarten with and so many of us have stuck around because, well, why would you want to live anywhere else?”
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