Gleaner Honour Awards | Dorothy Pine-McLarty, OJ - A life of service
"We must transmit our country Jamaica, not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was transmitted to us."
These are the words Dorothy Pine-McLarty has lived by all her life. Adopted from the Athenian Ephebic Oath, she repeats this philosophy over and over, and finds every opportunity to include the principle in whatever task she sets out to do.
With more than 40 years in public service, starting from she was a young girl, Pine-McLarty possesses an overwhelming passion and commitment in looking out for the needs of others and the greater good of Jamaica.
In her role as the chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ), last year the dedicated lady and her hard-working team successfully staged the country's two major elections - general and local government - resulting in a very smooth outcome that had the international community standing up and taking notice.
For achieving that admirable feat and for her outstanding leadership of the ECJ, Pine-McLarty has earned the Gleaner Honour Award in Public Service for 2016.
"I am totally overwhelmed with receiving this honour. It is very wonderful, but I must give full credit to the hard-working team at ECJ and the thousands of election-day workers, who I call the unsung heroes, as well as the committee members and various commissioners along the way who have paved the way and taken Jamaica to where it is today in the election process," the gracious lady shared.
"The persons I work with are among the most committed Jamaicans I have ever known. They carry out their duties efficiently and tirelessly, resulting in election results that bring credit to Jamaica. That is why I call them the unsung heroes. So whatever honour is extended to me, it is due to them."
She said receiving the honour has put her in a very reflective mood, looking back over the years on the things that have moulded her into the person she is today.
Family of nurturers
The only child of who she refers to as "spirit-filled, faith-filled and loved-filled" parents, as well as the only grandchild and only niece, Pine-McLarty grew up in a family of nurturers who taught her the importance of service to others. From as early as she can remember, she always sought out opportunities to give of herself, whether to the less fortunate, her church, charity and goodwill organisations, sitting on numerous boards ... you name it ... always finding it very rewarding.
Over 50 years ago, she was fortunate to gain employment as the only female at the prestigious law firm Myers Fletcher Gordon, during which she built a successful career as an attorney-at-law and moved up the ranks to partner.
"It is a firm of lawyers with big hearts and generous spirits. We live as a family and seek every opportunity to assist wherever we can. Douglas Fletcher always said, 'Put the money in the people, not the building', and we live by that," said Pine-McLarty, who is now retired and operates in the capacity as consultant for the firm.
Some 15 years ago, she began working with the electoral commission, albeit it, "under duress", as she puts it.
"I remember getting a call from former Governor General Sir Howard Cooke, stating that he was putting together a team to form the electoral commission and he wanted me to be part of it. I said, 'Sir, I thank you very much, but I don't want that challenge; it's more than I can manage', but he was very serious," she recalled.
"I am ashamed to say that he called me back over and over, and it took two months before I finally gave in, when he said, 'You know, my friend Douglas Fletcher would not treat me like this'. I was so ashamed of myself. I just could not have the governor-general say something like that. And I tell you, it has truly been a most rewarding experience."
Stating that Jamaica has truly achieved significant gains in electoral reform and transformation over the last 30 years, Pine-McLarty salutes the many persons who have worked hard over the years to take it to this level.
"I am extremely proud of Jamaica's electoral system today. Yes, there is more to be done, such as the much-needed reverification process that is now being carried out on a phased basis, as well as the need for more resources and more updated equipment. But we have a lot to be proud of; we have come a very far way," said the attorney-at-law, a strong believer in democracy.
"My greatest moment is our electoral system being constantly recognised by so many countries around the world, in and outside of the commonwealth. Jamaica's successes in this area stand as a model for many countries internationally. Some have come to examine our system, while others have invited us to observe their national elections. In fact, Jamaica has been the first to implement a number of things in our electoral process, to modernise the system."
Among Pine-McLarty's wish-list for further improvement of the country's electoral process is dual elections to reduce the cost of hosting two separate elections (general and local); fixed election date to allow for greater efficiency; the completion of the reverification of the voters' list; exploration of the causes and possible cures of voter apathy; and a strong public education on the democratic process.