What I Learned from Serving on Jury Duty (while exploring Port Washington)

I was sitting at Third Space Brewing with my coworkers about a month ago when I received the dreaded news via a text from my mom: I had been summoned for jury duty. My first thought was something along the lines of “No, no, no, no, no!” I had already made a conscious plan to look good at my new job and not take any days off this summer, not to mention that I always prefer to get paid when given the option. I read through the summons and tried to find a loophole, a way out, and in failing to do so gave a second thought to the summons – one that considered all the positives about committing a week of my time to serving my country – that made me think “Yes, yes, yes!”

Here are a few of the perks I came up with:

  • The Ozaukee County Justice Center is in Port Washington, which is one of my favorite cities to visit. During the lunch break, I could drive down to the harbor to eat, sight-see, and take pictures to my heart’s content.
  • I would get to take a break from staring at the computer screen 8 hours per day and do a job that required social interaction and analytical conversation.
  • While voting is important, it is a more passive action and doesn’t inherently require a dedication of time and participation (though there certainly is that option for those who research candidates and become involved in their choice candidate’s campaign!). Jury duty requires citizens to actively participate in the American judiciary.

Thankfully for many who live in less-populated counties, being on-call for a week of jury duty rarely means you will end up having to serve the entire time. I was only required to show up on Thursday, and I think that one full day of committed service was just the right amount of time for my first jury duty experience. While we were given permission by the judge to discuss the case we oversaw after the verdict was delivered, I’ll spare those details for the sake of focusing on what I took away from my experience instead.

Seeing as I hope for my blog to provide an exciting recollection of and inspiring lifestyle for those interested in travel, both within and beyond Wisconsin, I want to highlight Port Washington and the beauty of my home county. Ozaukee County is the smallest of Wisconsin’s 72 counties and borders Lake Michigan on the east. While all of its towns have incredible lake views and breathtaking bluffs, Port Washington is a hidden gem where the locals go to escape the busy car (and boat) traffic in Milwaukee and take a trip to a pseudo-East Coast town. I can’t say I’ve spent much time exploring the New England coastline, but I will tell you that when I’m in Port Washington I feel like I’ve just teleported to Massachusetts.

The harbor is the main attraction; with abundant green space, old lakeside dining establishments, and that unparalleled sound of boats swaying against the rolling waves and breeze, you’ll want to spend your entire time here outside. When I was younger, my family used to drive our houseboat up from McKinley Marina in Milwaukee and spend a weekend in the Port Washington Marina. On this particular lunch break, I had no such motor vessel, but I did have two feet and the excitement of a kid in a candy store. I just took a scenic walk around downtown, but the breakwater captured in the picture below makes for what is arguably my favorite walk in the city.

One thing I absolutely love about tourism is the passion locals have to promote their hometown to visitors, and the way that that feeling is reciprocated when you are the tourist exploring someone else’s hometown. I love sharing all of my favorite parts of Wisconsin, then listening to other people’s recommendations whenever I travel out-of-state. Nowhere can hometown pride and community be expressed better than in jury duty (okay, there are lots of other times and places to express that love, but jury duty is a new one to add to the list!). I loved having meaningful and analytical discussion with members in my community I may never have otherwise talked to, and especially loved doing so without anyone being distracted by a phone. Having uninterrupted conversations is virtually a non-existent concept anymore in many social and professional spheres, and I loved, loved, loved not hearing a single beep, buzz, or brrrring for two straight hours.

Ultimately, I loved that our discussion came with disagreements, but not conflict; opinions, but no bipartisanship. Everyone in the room was discussing an important civic issue based on current legislation, but no one was critiquing the legislation itself or blaming it on a presidential administration. While assessing the laws that govern our country is an important thing to do, jury duty is not the place to do it. I came away from jury duty feeling refreshed, empowered, and knowing that the work I did that day was more meaningful than any other job I’ve had so far. If you are summoned for jury duty, figuring out the work, family, and financial accommodations you’ll need to make can be stressful, but I promise that receiving the opportunity to participate in a foundational civic duty and reach verdicts that will change peoples’ lives forever will make you feel fulfilled and proud to be an American.

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