Amanda Marshall - Yes, to career - and family
In November 2010, President Barack Obama appointed Amanda Marshall of McMinnville the U.S. Attorney for the district of Oregon, and the U.S. Senate confirmed her appointment in September 2011.
My journey as a working mother is not one of perfection. None of us is superhuman, nor should we strive to be.
What each of us should do is be true to who we are and never lose sight of what is important to us. For me, that is family, love, meaningful work and making the world a better place.
It took a series of twists and turns, being in the right place at the right time, experience, love and — yes — hard work, lots of hard work.
The journey started well before law school. My younger sister and I were raised by a single, working mother. We moved a lot, so I attended eight schools in three states. By the age of 10, I was taking care of my sister and cooking dinner some nights. No parent made sure my homework was done. My first job was a paper route in sixth grade, and I learned to be self-directed, accountable and self-reliant.
My college experience began at a community college in California, definitely not the typical academic track for a U.S. attorney. When I transferred to the University of Oregon a year later, I met my husband, Ladd Wiles, on the debate team. I opted for Willamette University College of Law over a more prestigious California school when then-boyfriend Ladd announced he would never move to California.
Let me paint this picture: I was 22, dating a 21-year old who worked in a sandwich shop, lived with his parents and rode a bicycle. The beauty of hindsight is the ability to see how right this decision turned out.
After law school, I committed myself to public service, continually working to protect Oregon’s citizens and uphold the law. My responsibilities have included creating policies and procedures, improving outcomes for domestic violence victims and dependent children, and prosecuting hundreds of cases. I have also had the privilege of mentoring other attorneys.
The U.S. attorney’s office includes approximately 120 lawyers and staff in Portland, Eugene and Medford. The work primarily consists of enforcing the nation’s criminal and civil federal laws, collecting debts owed to the United States and defending the nation from lawsuits. Additional tasks include implementing national justice priorities and initiatives in Oregon. The cases before me on any given day range from fair housing to international terrorism.
As a woman holding a high-level, powerful position, I am asked, “How do you do it all?” The honest answer is I don’t.
As a law student, I thought I would get married, have kids and work part time while advancing in my career and feeling fulfilled in my home life.
I would find time to work out, garden and cook healthy meals my family would enjoy together at the dining room table every night. We would travel and be involved in our kids’ school and activities, and I would be a great lawyer fighting the good fight on the side of truth, justice and the American way.
In real life, I have a family with three amazing sons, ages 13, 10 and 7. I cook healthy meals we eat together about three nights a week, usually close to 8 p.m. after I g et home from my 90-minute commute. Some weeks, I work out; others, I don’t.
My house is usually a mess, except on Wednesdays when my mother, Patriciafaye Marshall, cleans it.
My garden is full of weeds threatening to take over the house. Sleep? In the words of Warren Zevon, I’ll sleep when I’m dead. Most days, though, I fight the good fight. Other days, I struggle with budgets, politics and bureaucracy.
But I do want it all. I don’t want to do anything halfway. I want to be a fabulous lawyer and a magnificent mother. Is it possible? I think so, but it’s hard, and I’ve found it can’t be done alone.
Here are the keys to my success:
- I don’t sweat the small stuff. I let go of unrealistic expectations and focus on what’s really important.
- I connect with lifelong friends regularly.
- My loving mother lives only five minutes away.
- Most importantly, my husband takes an active parenting role. Between shuttling the boys to soccer, Scouts and track, Ladd also manages to fight for justice as a Yamhill County deputy district attorney and will soon become a Circuit Court judge. He also actively volunteers in the community. I have learned to let go when he feeds the kids Tater Tots and pizza for dinner. Nobody’s perfect.
Guest writer Amanda Marshall of McMinnville, as chief federal law enforcement officer in Oregon, oversees prosecution of federal crimes and civil matters. She is actively involved in preventing child exploitation and violence, Native American and Alaskan Native issues, terrorism, national security and medical marijuana. Prior positions include 10 years as Assistant Oregon Attorney General in the child advocacy section; and five years as a Deputy District Attorney in Coos County, where she headed the domestic violence prosecution unit.
From left to right: Eli Wiles, 13, Henry Wiles, 7, and Sam Wiles, 10.