U.S. Attorney discusses professional journey

U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall is in the prime of her career.

But despite being a top federal prosecutor, she is really just like any other woman. Often busy and sometimes frazzled, she works hard to provide for her family and loves the community of McMinnville, where she lives. 

Marshall spoke about her professional and life journey at the Women Leaders Luncheon on Wednesday as part of Yamhill Enrichment Society’s new series “Conversations with…” It is designed to bring notable and accomplished Oregon women to Yamhill County to tell their stories.

“There’s something I love about McMinnville,” Marshall said. “We’re all more accountable here.

“We all know each other and wherever we go we’ll run into our kids’ teacher or soccer coach, or our husband’s boss. I think it makes us all more compassionate and hopefully honest.”

She has made her home in McMinnville since 2004 with her husband, Deputy District Attorney Ladd Wiles, and their three sons.

In addition to prosecuting criminal cases for the county, Wiles is mounting a judicial campaign. Combined with Marshall’s responsibilities as U.S. Attorney, her  commute to Portland, and the kids’ activities, they lead busy lives.

“I’m trying to do a better job with the work-life balance,” Marshall said.

They try to have dinner as a family every night, and succeed about five times a week, she said. She said she has a lot of support from her mother and her husband, and that helps keep things running smoothly.  

“I’m lucky to have a husband who is a father,” she said.

While she’s flying across the country for business, he goes to Boy Scouts and baseball with the boys, she said. “The hardest thing is to get the moms to stop calling me and call Ladd instead,” Marshall said.

She emphasized how she is not one who always has it together. She is just like any other woman engaged in a fast-paced career.

Marshall also discussed some of the resistance she initially faced from media and opponents when she was first nominated as U.S. Attorney for Oregon. 

She was in the running with distinguished attorneys with serious political connections, all male. She had been working with the Child Advocacy Section of the Oregon Department of Justice, which operates out of the limelight, making her relatively unknown.

She was well-qualified, boasting a lofty conviction rate as a prosecutor and a decade of experience working in the child welfare area with the Department of Justice. Yet she was criticized for her lack of experience at the federal level. 

“I’d had those titles, but people didn’t know who I was,” she said. “I wasn’t politically involved and didn’t spend a lot of time with press. I was locally focused within my own community.”

In an article about the nominees, one Portland newspaper incorrectly listed Marshall as a Portland lawyer. She was actually a state Department of Justice prosecutor living in McMinnville and working in Salem.

After creating a public Facebook page to make her credentials better known, she was dubbed a “Facebooker” in one account.

“Everything I did was sort of undermined or criticized,” she said. “I don’t know what it is about me that would draw this response, when it wasn’t based on anything factual or my actual career.”

She was also criticized for being young, inexperienced and lacking in criminal experience, even though she had tried more than 115 cases on state and county levels. In fact, while working as deputy district attorney in Coos County, her first job out of school, she had transformed the prosecution rate from 50 percent to 95 percent, she said.

Marshall didn’t give up, because this is the career she has always loved. And she is dedicated to serving the public.

As an adolescent, she loved school, considering it her oasis. She attended the University of Oregon, where she switched majors from psychology to communications, then took a forensics class and discovered debate.

It turned out she was really proficient. “And what do most college debaters become? Lawyers,” she said.

She had found her calling. After graduation, she enrolled at the Willamette University College of Law.

“My life has not been a ten-step plan,” Marshall said. “It’s been a series of accidents, intentional ones maybe, and choices that led to where I am now.”

As head of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Portland, Marshall now works on a variety of criminal and civil cases, from human trafficking and financial fraud, to terrorism and federal law suits. She is especially passionate about Native Americans, child welfare and bullying issues.

Susan Sokol Blosser, president of YES, presented Marshall with a gift of gratitude — a basket filled with local goods from YES’s Bounty of the County project. She said the next YES Women Leaders luncheon, set for Feb. 26, would feature animal communicator and author Lauren McCall.

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