Danica Zichem taking her oath as candidate bailiff in the presence of Judge Peter Lemaire (sitting right), as court recorder Leona Patrick-Gibbs looks on.
~Aims to be a fresh pair of eyes to help find solutions~
PHILIPSBURG–St. Maartener Danica Elyse Naomi Zichem, who was sworn in as a candidate bailiff on Monday, plans to carry out her duties with empathy, while being firm.
“No one wants to see the bailiff show up at their doorstep. It is an extremely vulnerable situation to be in and there is a sense of defeat and despair in the air. The best thing you can do in that situation is let the person feel like he/she is not alone and, better yet, understood,” Zichem told The Daily Herald while explaining what she brings to the table in her new post.
She was sworn in by Judge Peter Lemaire in the presence of seasoned bailiffs, including St. Maarten’s first female bailiff Solange Apon, at the Court House in Philipsburg. If all goes well over the next two years, Zichem is likely to become the second female bailiff in St. Maarten.
Zichem’s top goals as the new candidate bailiff in St. Maarten are to be a strong asset for the current bailiffs, to assist with the strenuous workload, to be a fresh pair of eyes that can try to find solutions for existing bottlenecks, and to execute her assignments while holding true to her morals and values as a professional and as a human being.
The next two years will be considered as Zichem’s studies in the position. During this time, she will be a candidate bailiff under the mentorship of Apon and she will be rotating between the different bailiff offices gaining as much experience as she can. Apon will be taking Zichem under her wings and teaching her the ropes. “Once those two years are up, my body of work will be reviewed and based on that, I will be able to act and work independently,” Zichem said.
“I look forward to learning from the best in the business and studying their tricks of trade. Once I have finished my apprenticeship, I will be able to work independently and will then definitely pursue opening my own office,” she added.
The 32-year-old feels honoured to be the second woman in line to become a bailiff in St. Maarten. “Three years ago, I was already secretly aspiring to become a bailiff, but it was something that I never dared to utter out loud. It is not a position that opens up easily, so I decided to protect my dream by keeping it to myself. I held on to my vision and kept working towards my goal by learning and immersing myself in the legal field as much as I could in the meantime. Being given the opportunity to even apply was a huge deal for me, let alone being deemed fit for the position. Needless to say, I respect the job and the amount of responsibility that comes with it and I plan to honour it wholeheartedly.”
Zichem was born in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. At 18 months, her family moved with her to St. Maarten. She attended Sister Regina Primary School and then moved on to Milton Peters College (MPC) where she graduated and received her VWO diploma in 2005.
When asked what inspired her to want to become a bailiff, she said: “In October 2015, I started working at Lexwell Attorneys at Law. It was there that I had my first real-life exposure to the legal field and I was fortunate enough to be in a position where I could view and learn the inner workings of legal procedures from start to finish. While working at Lexwell, I realised that I gained a genuine interest in the field and wanted to become a bigger part of it. By getting to work with the current bailiffs, I realised that my interests lay more in the execution part of the legal system.”
When asked how she plans to tackle tough cases or tough persons that she may encounter in her line of work, given that she is a woman in what is traditionally a male-oriented field, she said: “While in Amsterdam, I worked as a duty manager at a tourist attraction where I was at risk every day of encountering and dealing with tough/aggressive persons from all around the world. My experience in dealing with such individuals has taught me a lot about myself and how to handle such situations. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of my ‘tough cookie’ side knows that I am a no-nonsense type of person and can ignite that side of me when necessary.”
There is a lot about this field that makes her tick. “I love how diverse the work can be. There really never is a dull moment and you are kept on your toes at all times. I think this field will definitely challenge me like never before. And because I dislike complacency, I can only embrace being pushed out of my comfort zone despite how uncomfortable it may make me in the moment,” she says.
“For those who know me, dancing was always my passion and I had been dancing since I was three-years-old. After high school, I moved to Amsterdam to study dance at Amsterdamse Hogeschool voor de Kunsten and graduated in 2009, receiving my Bachelors in Performing Arts. Unfortunately, that career was short-lived due to an injury and allowed for reality to come knocking at my door not too long after. It forced me to enter into the work field faster than I had originally planned. Everything I know and am able to do today is based on my work experience and having had to build myself from the ground up.”
When asked how she thinks the field can be improved, she said there is quite a huge disconnect between what bailiffs experience and encounter in the field compared to a lawyer’s or judge’s requests and expectations. What is sometimes expected of a bailiff to execute is far from realistic or even possible, she says. “I think we could create a more efficient work relationship if lawyers/judges would occasionally dive into the field with a bailiff and allow themselves to get first-hand experience of what risks or obstacles can arise with certain assignments.”
She shared some words of advice for youngsters interested in pursuing a career in this field. “If you have a vision or a goal that you are passionate about: hold on to it. Do not let people sway you into thinking that what you feel to be your destiny is nothing other than just a dumb idea that should be quickly forgotten. Keep putting in the work to get where you want to be, and never get complacent because we are all replaceable. Finally, continue striving to be the best version of yourself all day, every day.”
Zichem said she is a simple person who enjoys a low-key life. “I enjoy working hard and therefore take pride in what I do. I am a strong believer in how the energy you put out can dictate the quality of your life. And because of that, I believe in treating people from all walks of life with the same respect and kindness, I would want for myself.”
She is excited about her new tasks and is thankful to everyone who helped her reach this far.