Mary Bystricky, the Payson City Attorney and co-founder of the Gila County’s Restorative Court Program, will leave town with Judge Dorothy Little to join the Gila County Attorney’s Office on January 19th.
Bystricky joined the city’s prosecutor in July 2015, shortly after former prosecutor Hector Figueroa started.
“The City of Payson was very fortunate to hire Mary at a time when the Legal Department had fallen behind when Tim Wright was elected Supreme Court Justice,” Figueroa said. “I convinced her to move here from the valley for a mediocre salary.”
By the time Figueroa hired Bystricky, she had applied for a position with the Flagstaff law firm, but found it filled.
At the same time, Payson was still struggling to recover from the recession, while areas like Phoenix were booming. Figueroa noted that he needed help but said the budget was so tight that he needed to save money where he could. So he stood on the shoulders of another city to find Bystricky.
“I had just been hired and had to deal with all of the city’s legal affairs. I also had to serve as a prosecutor for six months. Then I found out that the Flagstaff city attorney had hired a prosecutor and I held out my hand,” said he said to find out who else had applied.
Bystricky was one of two candidates. Figueroa decided that Bystricky had such a solid experience that he needed it on the team – regardless of the cost.
“The town wasn’t out of the financial downturn, and to make sure Mary wasn’t going to greener pastures, I even volunteered my 2% COLA to go towards her salary and got the council members to do it in a public council meeting To throw in $ 1,000 from them council budgets go towards their salary, ”he said.
“We always end up where we should be, right?” She said Figueroa hired her.
The two had a close relationship and Figueroa enjoyed her sense of humor.
Figueroa is “famous for giving friends my own name,” as is Su-Su for former councilor Sue Connell and Stan the Man for her husband.
“Well, I did the same for our legal team and her name will forever be ‘Mary Mary’,” he said.
Over time, Figueroa “put so much thought into her professional skills that I promoted her to the capacity of assistant city attorney who expected her to take power when she retired,” he said.
However, Figueroa’s plans for Bystricky were derailed in August 2019 when Figueroa abruptly retired under the newly appointed council of Mayor Tom Morrissey.
The new council quickly replaced Figueroa with a contract with the law firm Pierce Coleman.
When budget talks began in March 2020, the council flirted with the idea of dropping Bystricky’s internal legal department and position, but backed off because of the pandemic.
Now Bystricky will move to the Gila County Attorney’s Office.
“I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to work in your office,” she said.
During Payson’s prosecutor, Bystricky started an innovative program called Restorative Justice with urban judge Dorothy Little. The aim was to offer an option other than fines to individuals with repeated low-level offenses and mental illness.
The program grew out of a national effort that Little was involved in following the riot in Ferguson, MO, to reform the criminal justice system. A national investigation into the event found conflicts of interest, fines higher than the cost of living, and the chief of police running the courts as obstacles to justice under the constitution.
“There was no separation of powers at all,” said Little. “People shouldn’t be punished unequally for being poor.”
The Restoration Court takes Bystricky and Little, identified as mentally ill, and gives them the option to pay their fines through an eight- to 10-month program that provides counseling, medication (if needed), completing work in the ward, and requiring a bi – Weekly case management meeting to monitor progress. The two have partnered with agencies in the city that offer services like community bridges. These organizations signed up because Bystricky played an important and consistent role throughout the process.
Bystricky said she could be very proud, but one case made a special impression.
A young man brought in his first paycheck at a bi-weekly meeting. Bystricky was impressed by his joy at his second move.
“He was full of confidence. He could do something for himself, ”she said.
Bystricky hopes the program will continue.
“I believe the Restorative Court is a wonderful program that allows many of our community members to make different choices and build the lives they want. I hope that it or a similar program will continue in the future.
With Bystricky playing such an important role in the Restorative Court, his fate remains to be seen.
“The loss of the city of Payson is Gila County’s gain,” Figueroa said.