Occupation: Judge

How long have you been in this industry? 20 years

What is your background, work experience, and education?
I grew up in a very rural community in Western New York and attended college at the University of Massachusetts.  While in school, I studied abroad for one academic year in France and backpacked a bit around Europe and Morocco.  After graduating from college, I worked as a travel agent for two years while wrestling with whether I really wanted to go to law school or if I should pursue a career in social work or the non-profit sector.  After some fun and traveling, I figured it out.  At the time, I lived in a neighborhood in Boston with many people who primarily spoke Spanish, which made me realize that I wanted to learn that language for my personal and professional life as a future lawyer.
I took my law school entrance exam, applied to law schools, and quit my job to have a last big adventure and to learn Spanish before settling into a career and student loan debt.  I lived and worked in Chile for several months and then traveled and hiked from Patagonia to Peru before returning for law school in Syracuse.  My husband is a mountain guide and Chilean, so we knew we couldn't stay on the east coast after law school if he wanted to continue with his career.  That's what brought us to Washington, where I hoped to pursue a career in public service and primarily one in criminal law.  
I started working at the Skagit County Prosecutor's Office and later transitioned over to the Skagit County Public Defender's Office where I represented people charged with felonies.  I have served as a judge for four years.
Number of years living/working in the Skagit Valley?
Over 16 years working for Skagit County and 15 years living in Mount Vernon.

What inspires your work or sets your business apart?
I have always been very justice-driven, which is what inspired me to pursue a career in the legal field.  One thing that people don't always understand about the court system is that we serve the public, but we do not represent the public in the same way as other elected officials.  We do our best to do what is just and equitable for each case, but sometimes the law is clear and we must always follow the law.  This is what "the rule of law” means, which is a line that prevents mob justice from infiltrating the court system.
What is something most people don’t know about your industry?
Judges rarely use gavels; I have only used a gavel when children visit the courtroom for a tour or an adoption.  Most of our trials do not involve juries.  Superior Court has remained open in some capacity throughout the pandemic and never closed its doors, although most hearings and trials are currently happening over video.

What does community mean to you?
Community is like an extended family.  It's essential to most human survival and existence as we know it.  When I look around at Skagit County, I can see how community-minded individuals and organizations have made such a tremendous difference in most people's daily lives.  This sense of community is also what inspires people to vote for measures that might not directly benefit them but will help their neighbors.  From the friend who helps you out when you're in a time of crisis to the organization that provides a scholarship or assistance with basic human needs, I can't imagine what our world would look like without support from the greater community.

What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
I love hiking, camping, backpacking, skiing, and pretty much anything that gets me outside.  I miss traveling and look forward to a time when it's safe to at least visit family near Buffalo and in Chile.  I take great pleasure in a good book, particularly on a rainy day, although much of my reading is by way of audiobooks.  I also enjoy cooking, baking, and gardening, but only when I'm really in the mood for it.

Besides Rotary, what other community organizations are you involved in?
I'm currently the president of Skagit Women in Business, a board member for Community Action of Skagit County, and a member of the Madison Elementary Parent Teacher Organization, although that's only until they can hold elections in November.  I'm on the board of trustees for the Skagit County Law Library.  In terms of the court system, I am on the board of trustees for the Superior Court Judges Association (SCJA), the chair of the SCJA's criminal law and rules committee, and a member of the legislative committee, public outreach committee, and racial justice work group.