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Interim public defender, Sonoma County Office of the Public Defender, 600 Administration Dr., Room 111J, Santa Rosa 95404, 707-565-2791, sonoma-county.org/pubdef

Age: 51

Residence: Santa Rosa

Professional background: Member of many organizations and committees locally and statewide

Education: AA, BA, JD

Staff: 27 lawyers, 53 total staff

Tell us about yourself and your company: I am a fourth-generation Sonoma County resident, growing up on a dairy ranch in West County. I was the first in my family to attend college, earning an AA , BA, and JD degree. I always knew that I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney. My mother claims that I was born arguing, defending those less fortunate and always trying to right the wrongs while empowering others to stand up for their beliefs and rights.

I have been married for almost 30 years. I have two stepchildren and we have one daughter. We also have two small grandchildren. My office is made up of 27 incredible lawyers and a total staff of 53 people who share the same passion and drive that I do. Our employees are dedicated to criminal defense and the challenges that this area of law entails. Besides being a public defender, I have been a professor at Empire College School of law for the past 23 years.

Is there a major accomplishment in the past year or so that you would like to share?: In the past year I have been named the interim public defender with the expectation that this will be made permanent in the next few months. After starting out as a law clerk 26 years ago, I worked my way up the ranks to become a deputy public defender, chief deputy and assistant public defender.

What is the achievement you are most proud of?: There are so many achievements that I am proud of. Generally speaking, setting what appears to be unattainable goals and then achieving them, are many achievements to be proud of.

What is your biggest challenge today?: The biggest challenge that faces my office today involves budgetary constraints and cutbacks involving the services that be provide to our clients. This is a very challenging equation.

Words that best describe you: Determined, tenacious and passionate.

As a successful female professional, what were the biggest obstacles you faced and how did you overcome them?: Initially in my career, getting through the “ Good ‘ole boy’s club” was a challenge, but I have not felt any gender discrimination or biases for many years. I think that hard work, being objective, and working through problems one by one can overcome any obstacle.

How do you think your profession will change in the next five years?: Realignment is the biggest and most complex change that the criminal justice system in California has ever faced. The next five years will reveal many new challenges for criminal law and criminal practitioners.

Who was your most important mentor? Stephanie Joy

And tell us a little bit about that person: I met Stephanie when I was a law student and she was a deputy public defender. She took me under her wings until we eventually work together at the Public Defender’s Office. She became my supervisor and followed her dream and became the first female Sonoma County commissioner. She has a keen ability to understand people and their plights. She taught me to be understanding, patient, and objective and the best defender that I could possibly be. Most importantly, she taught me to follow my dreams, earn respect, don’t demand it, and to never give up on people or myself.

What advice would you give to a young woman entering your profession or the work world today?: My advice to any young woman who has the passion and drive to defend the constitution and the rights of those that are accused of a crime is to remain true to yourself and not to give up this challenging fight.

Most admired businessperson outside your organization: Dorothy Hutchinson

Current reading: Police reports

Most want to meet: Oprah Winfrey

Stress relievers: Playing with my grandchildren

Favorite hobbies: Traveling, boating, camping and of course shopping