Celia Ortiz was a history major at ASU when her career trajectory completely changed. Celia and her twin sister had plans to go to dinner and see a movie when they ended up helping an older woman whose purse had been stolen. “We chased a purse snatcher at a central Phoenix shopping mall. The perpetrator pointed a weapon at me, we stared at each other for what seemed an eternity; luckily, we both decided to turn around and run.” Celia and her sister were an integral part in getting the four perpetrators into custody that day and assisting the woman who was victimized.
Through the criminal justice process, Celia and her sister had a victim advocate whose profound passion, love, and dedication for her work left a lasting impression on Celia. “I wasn’t sure what I would do with a degree in history; I just knew I loved history. After the incident, I directed my studies toward a Bachelor of Social Work degree.”
After switching majors to a Bachelor of Social Work, Celia had to find a volunteer position in her field of interest, which led her to work at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office helping crime victims. Celia started assisting victims at Justice Court with the Victim Services Division while working full-time and attending school. “I was talking to victims about their rights, going to court, reading victim impact statements into the record, going on home visits, delivering food boxes; everything an advocate would do on a near-daily basis. I loved it so much that I interned when school was out-of-session.”
On July 1997, after graduating college, Celia was hired to work at MCAO. Through her work, she has made a true difference in the lives of countless victims and their families. Currently, she works as a Victim Advocate with the Property and Financial Crimes bureau. Her supervisor, Julie Williams, shares that, “she’s very patient with victims, which is especially important for victims that have no experience in the criminal justice system, it makes them feel important.” Over the years, Celia has worked on a variety of cases from almost every bureau in the office. She shares that she's, “proud of the special projects, the high profile, and regular cases I assisted on.”
After all these years, what Celia still enjoys the most about her work is the people. “I’m most proud of my relationships. I’ve worked hard to build and maintain friendships with support staff, advocates, paralegals, prosecutors, supervisors, and housekeeping personnel. I’ll miss the people I’ve worked with for so many years.” A sentiment shared by those who worked around her. Liz Cervantez, whose office is next to Celia, shares that “she’s a blast and a lot of fun to be around, her office is a mini escape from work.” Liz remembers laughing and having fun at staff meetings where Celia would share a fun fact or a teachable moment. One of her favorite memories of Celia was in 2014 when the PBK program was introduced to the office. After a particularly stressful week, Celia helped coordinate a potluck and raffle to boost spirits and help staff de-stress.
To those interested in victim advocacy, Celia shares that it’s essential to spend time getting to know people and have in-person conversations to build rapport with prosecutors and paralegals. She encourages new employees to say yes often while respecting their limits and “always remember the Golden Rule, to smile and be nice.”
The youngest of five sisters, Celia was born and raised in Phoenix and is a true Arizona native. She spends her summers camping in Northern Arizona, learning to appreciate and respect the environment. Growing up, their family also spent time in northern Mexico, visiting Altar and Puerto Penasco. A fun fact about Celia many may not know is that she managed a pop band called the Zen Lunatics during the 1990s. “I booked them all over the valley and met fantastic people along the way.”
During retirement, Celia hopes to spend more time visiting her parents, going on four-wheeling adventures with her husband of 23 years, cooking, knitting, playing with her cat, and of course, sleeping in.
We wish Celia the best in her retirement and are grateful for the hard work and dedication she contributed to the Victim Services Division. Thanks, Celia!