Heckstall’s job is more than money

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 23, 2005

AHOSKIE – For Jamie Heckstall, success isn’t about making more money; it’s about making a difference.

Having graduated in 1998 with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Elizabeth City State University, Heckstall relocated to her native hometown of Powellsville. For the past five years she has been working for the District 6B Attorney’s Office as a victim witness advocate.

&uot;It’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding,&uot; she said upon receiving her five-year service award.

Advocating for victims by answering any questions they might have relating to the court process, parole, post-release supervision or other concerns, Heckstall said she was inspired to return home to her roots instead of taking her knowledge and talents to a bigger city.

&uot;You can’t make anything of home if everyone runs away,&uot; she said. &uot;I wanted my kids to have a sense of community, to be a name and not a number, and here, everyone knows everyone else and it’s easy to find people you can trust when you need someone to watch your kids.&uot;

Heckstall said her work, though demanding at times, brings her a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction.

&uot;I enjoy helping people,&uot; she said. &uot;Sometimes victims feel like they are the only ones in the world struggling, especially in cases involving rape which is very belittling, but I when they come talk with me, I try to give them the focused attention they need.&uot;

District Attorney Valerie Mitchell-Asbell feels thankful to have Heckstall working with her.

&uot;I have worked with Jamie and have grown to respect her in many ways, both professionally and personally,&uot; Asbell said. &uot;Although she works primarily in Hertford County, she is an asset to my entire district.&uot;

Asbell continued, &uot;It’s been said that behind every good man is a good woman, well behind every good prosecutor is a good victim’s witness advocate and having Jamie makes my job a whole lot easier.&uot;

Asbell praised Heckstall as a strong advocate for victim’s rights and for going the extra mile to ensure that victims of crime receive one on one contact from the District Attorney’s Office.

&uot;Lots of times the criminal justice system leaves victims feeling as if they have been victimized two or three times, but Jamie makes it her duty to make victims feel as comfortable as possible under the strenuous conditions of court and has remained friends with many of those she helped over the years,&uot; Asbell said.

That seems to be an aspect of the job Heckstall really enjoys.

&uot;When you hear from a client three to four years after helping them through a case and they call to tell you how they have moved on and gone to college or grad school or had a family, it’s very moving,&uot; she said. &uot;I really feel like I’m making a difference.&uot;

Heckstall expressed a desire to eventually practice law, but stated she would likely attend a college locally to obtain her masters before making plans to acquire a degree in law.

&uot;Having a family and attending school is very challenging,&uot; she said, &uot;and since there are no law schools in the immediate area, I am leaning towards getting a masters in either Public Administration or Human Resource Management.&uot;

Asbell concluded, &uot;It’s nice to have people come back and contribute to the area and we are fortunate to have someone in this position who cares so much about the citizens in the community. I am very proud of Jamie and am even prouder to present her with her five-year service award.&uot;

Heckstall and her husband, Tony, reside in Powellsville with their two daughters, Amaya (4 years) and Kennedi (6 months). She is the daughter of James and Linda Peele of Powellsville.