Dorothy Pine McLarty: The ECJ’s gentle Dynamo
Don't be fooled by her warm persona and charming smile, Dorothy Pine-McLarty is a formidable professional whose years of experience in both private and public sectors locally and internationally have equipped her for the duties she performs as chairman of the Electoral Commission of Jamaica (ECJ).
Pine-McLarty is a distinguished real-estate attorney-at-law, with several years of practice at the prestigious Myers, Fletcher and Gordon law firm where she was instrumental in establishing its London practice, serving there as the inaugural managing partner until 1998. In England, she practices in the areas of trust and estate law.
In 2007, she was conferred with the Order of Jamaica for outstanding public service. The respected attorney has been with the ECJ since 2007, where she has earned the respect of her peers as she seeks to continually improve the work in their mandate.
"My initial contract was for seven years, but when it expired, the then director of elections asked me to stay," she told Outlook in a recent interview at her beautiful Stony Hill home. Pine-McLarty has been through three elections and seen the ECJ grow to a point where it can hold its own among the best of similar organisations around the world.
"I certainly hope we can maintain these high standards. One of my proudest moments was when the Commonwealth Secretariat asked us to participate in a conference of similar bodies in London. Jamaica was one of only eight countries in a forum in London where our input was sought on ways to strengthen the electoral process, and we did ourselves proud," she said. Always a believer in succession planning, the commission also has in place a cadre of young, dynamic electoral professionals who are being groomed to take the organisation into the future.
Pine-McLarty speaks highly of the competence that resides in the team at the ECJ. "They have vast knowledge and expertise, they are solid people - a first-class team," she said with obvious pride. It is not surprising. Outlook learnt that, from time to time, members of the team are invited to board meetings where they contribute their valuable ideas.
With her sitting in the chair as the lone woman on an all-male board, Outlook sought Pine-McLarty's views on the large disparity between men and women on corporate boards in Jamaica. "My father taught me a long time ago to pick my battles, and although I was the first woman to work with my law firm and the first to be made a partner, I have seen where some of the same hurdles I scaled 50 years ago, my daughter is still facing them today," the eminent lawyer said.
So, her advice to women in today's corporate world is that they show commitment and remain focused all the time. She said they should be committed to both paying and non-paying positions and be careful of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time or to the wrong people.
She added: "I, too, suffered discrimination, but I am proud to see that my daughter, Rachel, who was recently called to the Bar, has, unlike my time, had the opportunity to gain first-class experience working with and learning from some of the best in corporate Jamaica. These include the late Paco Kennedy at GraceKennedy, Patricia Francis at JAMPRO, and Gordon Butch Stewart at the Sandals Group. If she takes all of that into law, she will do well at Myers, Fletcher & Gordon," the proud mother of two said.
As the talk about holding two elections at once continues, the ECJ chairman said that is among the things she would love to see become a reality before she departs the commission. "Apart from
holding both local government and general elections on the same day, I would love to see us do something about voter apathy to regain people's interest in voting," Pine-McLarty said. To that end, the ECJ will soon be embarking on a series of parish meetings to engage with the citizens about the process, the laws that govern it, and to also sensitise those who work in the process.
The idea of a one-day ballot is workable and Pine-McLarty, who observed its merits first-hand in South Africa, says she is certain it would save Jamaica millions of dollars, particularly at a time when we can ill afford to do excessive spending. But like many new things, people have to be convinced it can work.
After all the years at the commission, Pine-McLarty is still excited about the respect that Jamaica's electoral system has earned internationally. "Jamaica is constantly being asked to visit countries overseas to give them advice on the process, and it is a source of great satisfaction to be able to contribute to my country at this stage of my life. With that in mind, she would like her legacy to include an end to voter apathy and to see the reality of one-day voting.