I was born and raised in Columbia, Illinois. My parents were hard-working children of farmers. My father’s family immigrated from Germany a few generations back, and still spoke German when I was a little girl if they wanted to keep something a secret from me. My mother was born and raised a Missourian, having grown up in a small town in southwest Missouri. My parents were hard workers, and I was the first in our family to go to college immediately after high school. My father was a Korean War veteran, and drove an eighteen-wheeler for a living most of my growing up years until he retired when I was in high school. He was a Teamster who worked a physically and mentally taxing job. He taught me the value of common sense and traditional family values. He passed away in 2017, at the age of 87. My mother returned to college when I was in grade school, and ultimately ended up operating an accounting business before taking a job in-house for a construction business in Illinois, where she still works on a limited part-time basis. She is a breast cancer survivor, and remains active in her church and community in Illinois.
After high school, I went to college in a smaller city in Tennessee at a Southern Baptist college - Union University - on a Dean’s Scholarship. My interest in politics and public service was first sparked in those years, traveling by Greyhound bus to Washington DC to see the process firsthand.
After college, I returned to the Midwest for law school at the University of Missouri - Columbia (Mizzou). While in law school, I was an active member and officer for the Board of Advocates and participated in the Domestic Violence Clinic offered at the law school. During high school, college and law school, I worked to help pay my bills. I have held all sorts of jobs from retail to waiting tables to being a home health aide. My favorite college job was being a camp counselor at a camp designed for children and adults with physical or mental disabilities. Those two summers taught me a lot about the world of social work, what it means to care for others and how to lead a staff.
After law school, I returned to the metro area and worked for a year for a Clayton firm before settling in for seven years at Cordell & Cordell, PC. While at Cordell, I was able to argue a case to the Missouri Supreme Court, represent hundreds of men going through divorce and/or custody disputes and learn the ins and outs of the court system. I left Cordell in 2008 to form my own practice, and began then to also mediate family law cases as well as serve as a guardian ad litem for children both in Family Court and in Juvenile Court.
By far the most rewarding, but often the most challenging, work I have done has been to advocate for children and at times their parents in the Juvenile Courts of St. Charles County. This work is what I believe I was called to, and as hard as it is at times, I believe it is the most important work I’ve ever had the privilege of doing. While my role in the cases is often small, it has allowed me to meet and work side by side with case managers, foster parents, counselors and juvenile officers who are really on the front lines of caring for our children.
In the middle of my career, I have took on a new full-time job, I became a mother. My oldest is sixteen, and will graduate from high school in 2021. My middle will graduate from middle school in 2020. The baby (who the family has dubbed “the favorite”) is a proud member of the Class of 2034! The irony of teaching one child to use the toilet while teaching another one how to drive was not lost on me! My children have been at the center of my life, and ultimately were a large part of the reason I felt running for Judge was important at this moment in time.
I’ve been practicing in Family Court for 20 years as an attorney, an advocate, a guardian ad litem and as a mediator. What I have observed has at times left me somewhat troubled. Family Court is not the place most Judges hope to land. Family Court Judges don’t make the news. We don’t preside over the fancy jury trials that make the papers or the million dollar lawsuits everyone hears about. Oddly though, I would argue that Family Court is the most important place in the building. Our Judges decide issues pertaining to our children, our money, our property. These are life-changing decisions. With perhaps the exception of a death penalty case, there are no more important cases than ones where we address more serious and long-term situations.
All too often the Judges sitting in Family Court have no desire to be there. It’s a stop they must endure before they can move on to ”more important” work. This is the primary reason I am running for Judge. I want to serve in Family and Juvenile Court. It is what I know, and the work we do there is what I believe to be of the utmost importance. I think there are positive changes we could make in our courts that would change the way the average person views our system. I think in many situations, we need to speed the process up for children and families. To do that, we need Judges to be advocating for cases to be resolved quickly and efficiently. Our children who are waiting in foster care also deserve a sense of urgency on the part of the system. A year in the life of a child who is in the Juvenile Court system or whose parents are having a custody dispute is an incredibly long time to wait for resolution.
I also think our Circuit could benefit from the expansion of and addition to Treatment Courts.*. These courts are offering long-term solutions to issues Missourians are facing, such as addiction and mental illness. The Drug Court for instance, is helping parents in Family Court achieve long-term sobriety, which in turn benefits their children and the generations to come.
Lastly, I believe the formality of our system sometimes creates a barrier between Judge and litigant that isn’t helpful. Judges need to see and hear directly from the people they are being asked to make decisions about. Litigants need to know the Judge in their case views their situation as individual and unique and deserving of careful attention.
If elected, I promise to work hard; to use what I have learned in school, in life and in practice to approach those who come into my Courtroom with respect and civility. I promise to never forget that serving the public as an Associate Circuit Judge is a privilege, and that voters are counting on me to listen intently, set aside any personal opinions I might have, and apply the law in fair and consistent manner.