I grew up in Maryland and Virginia, the oldest of three children. Dad managed a farm cooperative and Mother taught kindergarten in the public schools. My parents are gone now, but during their lives they taught all of us the importance of standing for principle, responsibility to the community and being true to one's beliefs. I saw their words confirmed by their actions on many occasions and their standards continue to guide my own decisions, including my current decision to run for District Attorney.
My undergraduate work was in music and education at James Madison University, then called Madison College, in Harrisonburg, Virginia. After graduation I attended the the University of Cincinnati on a scholarship and graduated with a Masters of Music in Organ Performance. My first job was as a traveling elementary music teacher in three schools in the Appalachian area of southwest Virginia, one of them in a mining camp. The memories of that job are especially vivid, for the hardships of the children I taught and the wonderful cooperation and helpfulness of the people. Forever etched in my memory is one icy winter morning when I headed my big Pontiac up a steep hill on a narrow camp road with no guardrail and felt it begin to slide backwards toward the drop-off below. A group of men who had come up from the mines, their faces covered in soot, suddenly appeared between my car and the precipice and, while one pushed me aside to grab the steering wheel, the others physically pushed the car back onto the road. It was one of many examples of courage I was to see during that job by people whose lives were far removed from the comfortable life in which I had grown up.
Following the job in Appalachia I taught high school in Delaware and then moved to Pittsburgh, where I taught public school and private piano, and took a job as the Director of Music for a Methodist Church which I kept until moving to Centre County in 1987. It was in Pittsburgh that I became increasingly drawn to the idea of going into law, as a profession where I could make more of a difference in people's lives. Before making the commitment to pursue another degree and to change careers, I worked for several years with a Pittsburgh civil law firm as part of their support staff to get a feel for what a legal career would be like, and eventually enrolled in the University of Pittsburgh Law School.
I moved to Centre County in 1987 to take a position as an Assistant Public Defender. The following year I was invited by DA Ray Gricar to join his staff as an Assistant District Attorney, and remained in that position until I was discharged by DA Madeira in January, 2006. For my first ten years in that position, I was assigned to prosecute criminal cases of all types, including several Homicide by Vehicle cases, shootings, some of the SCI-Rockview riot cases, cases filed against the administrator and Director of Nursing in connection with the closure of State College Manor, several cases stemming from the Day fatality in Howard, child-abuse cases, and a wealth of general cases involving domestic violence, sexual assault, drugs, burglary and DUI. Throughout the period I was involved in regular arguments before the Superior and Supreme Courts of Pennsylvania and in one case via briefing to the U.S. Supreme Court. Several of the Homicide by Vehicle and shooting cases brought me into contact with EMS personnel, whose skills and volunteer spirit were impressive. In 1994 I completed the PSU evening course for certification as an Emergency Medical Technician and volunteered with Bellefonte EMS (then Logan) for about five years on ambulance calls. While I no longer actively volunteer, I have continued to maintain the certification and often found the knowledge acquired from the initial training and yearly continuing education courses to be of great help in understanding medical issues.
In 1998, I asked Mr. Gricar to be permitted to concentrate on the prosecution of child-abuse cases, in part because of the complex issues they presented and the amount of time which was required to prepare them. He agreed, with the proviso that I also handle elder-abuse/exploitation cases and all types of cases involving juvenile offenders. This remained my assignment for the next eight years, until I was discharged, and I believe that the expertise which I gained during that time is the factor which most clearly sets my candidacy apart from both the other Democratic primary contenders and current DA, Michael Madeira. Many changes and improvements were made in the approach to prosecuting child abuse during this period. I invite you to read about them and about my concerns in the "For the Children" link.
For anyone who has shared the experience of losing a job into which they have poured years of time, effort and commitment, I daresay little need be said concerning the emotional fallout which accompanied my dismissal by DA Madeira on January 3, 2006. I formally retired on County pension at the beginning of 2007, which would have been my twentieth year of service with the County. That of course will change if I am elected District Attorney. My law license is, and has been throughout the past three years, in active status, with all continuing education, fees and other licensing requirements current, and I have maintained state and local bar memberships. I have had the pleasure since the fall of 2006 of serving as Director of Music for a Bellefonte church, with a dedicated choir and a delightful 100-year-old 'tracker' pipe organ.
The past several years have provided a welcome break from the stress which often attended the type of cases which I prosecuted. For that reason, among others, deciding to run again for District Attorney was not an easy decision to make. But I believe that it is a decision which is consistent with the principles by which I have lived my life. For nearly two decades I learned what makes for a professional, fair and publicly approved District Attorney's Office. For almost a decade, I labored long and hard for improvements in a crucial area of prosecution which I believe are now being allowed to erode. I also have a level of trial and appellate experience as well as a breadth of knowledge of a variety of areas of criminal law which I believe are well beyond the experience and knowledge of both the other primary contenders and the current DA. For all of those reasons, I believe that I am in the best position to restore the District Attorney's Office to what it once was -- and can be once again.
I welcome input from Centre Countians about this site, developments in the District Attorney's Office since 2006, or my candidacy. I would like to have the opportunity to meet with as many County citizens as possible in the time remaining until this primary, to discuss what I have to offer if elected and what the public has the right to expect from a competently run District Attorney's Office.