I am from Bedford County, Virginia. The middle of three girls born to a mechanic and a seamstress, I graduated from Staunton River High School in 1989.
Having known no one who attended college—even in my vast extended family—I applied to Washington and Lee at the suggestion of my favorite high school teacher. I applied early decision and was accepted with a full scholarship. My time at W&L was challenging, but I would not change a moment of it. I am who I am because of it.
After graduation, I worked as a police officer in Lynchburg City, Virginia. While there, I worked in Vice, patrol, street crimes, D.A.R.E, and in various undercover assignments. I was the first African American woman promoted to vice. It was an amazing experience.
After three years as a police officer, I went to the University of Richmond School of Law, in part because its campus reminded me so much of Washington and Lee. After graduating, I clerked on the United States Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Little Rock, Arkansas.
I liked Little Rock, but it was always my intent to practice law in Virginia. So, I returned to Richmond, Virginia and joined Hunton Andrews Kurth’s Complex Litigation Team. Fifteen years later, I left the firm and joined the Office of the Attorney General for the Commonwealth of Virginia as Section Chief for Trials. I was the first woman, and the first African American to hold that position. A little over a year later, I joined the Northam Administration as Chief Counsel to the Governor. I was the first woman appointed to that position.
The Governor’s Office has been the most challenging and rewarding professional experience of my life. I am honored to serve. Currently, I live in Hanover County, Virginia with my husband of 18 years, my 10-year old daughter, and my 13-year old son
The voice I can bring to the board
I am a critical thinker who uses creativity, empathy, and pragmatism. I believe it is important to challenge what we believe, to encourage diversity of thought and dissent. Professionally, I have advised clients, judges, and government officials through complex legal issues, political scandals, and difficult policy decisions. No stranger to adversity, my goal is has always been to secure consensus.
My service to the University community
I have returned to Washington and Lee to speak at numerous events. I have also participated in webinars hosted by the Alumni Department.
Other community service
As a lawyer in private practice, I volunteered hundreds of hours to pro bono clients in both housing and political asylum matters. I have been a bar leader in both state and local bar associations.
Relevant personal and professional experience
As Counsel to the Governor, I have been pivotal in advancing his agenda, managing litigation filed against him, and defending his executive authority before Virginia’s legislature. I devised the legal strategy to remove the Robert E. Lee Monument (Lee Monument).
In this capacity, I have also written much legislation. I wrote the legislation that authorized the Governor to remove the Lee Monument, and upon which the trial court heavily relied in ruling in favor of the Governor’s authority and the legislation that set forth a process enabling localities to remove confederate war memorials, which the prior law forbade. I also wrote legislation to remove Harry S. Byrd’s statue, a prominent segregationist, from Virginia’s Capitol Square.
Other legislation I wrote includes expanding the Governor’s authority to impose civil penalties for violations of his executive orders and law that instituted two separate independent investigations of Virginia agencies.
I testified before Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates hearing committees in defense of each of those bills; subsequently, the General Assembly passed and the Governor signed each into law. I also testified before Virginia’s Senate and House of Delegates hearing committees in opposition to bills that limited or constrained the Governor’s emergency powers. Each died in committee. I also testified before those committees in support of a bill to repeal Virginia’s death penalty, an extremely important initiative to the Governor. That bill also passed.
I wrote at least 55 executive orders over the last 16 months implementing and easing the Governor’s restrictions relating to Virginia’s management of the COVID-19 public health emergency. I coordinated with Virginia’s Solicitor General and the Office of the Attorney General in defending over 50 legal challenges to those executive orders. With the exception of one, all failed. I also spoke at numerous press conferences regarding pending litigation and enforcement mechanisms under the Governor’s executive orders.hat I hope would be an asset to me if chosen to serve.
I have been the first woman to obtain many of the professional positions obtained during my career. Both the media and my legal colleagues have recognized my efforts. In the last year, I have appeared on the front pages of the Washington Post and the Richmond Times Dispatch. I recently received notice from Virginia Lawyers Weekly that it recognized me as one of “2021’s Influential Women in Law,” a peer-nominated honor bestowed upon a group of elite Virginia legal professionals.
Other interesting facts
It is my honor to participate in this process. Being a student at Washington and Lee was difficult. Nonetheless, Washington and Lee is special to me. I am heartened by the discussions regarding Washington and Lee’s legacy and its future. I strongly believe those discussions must continue as the University continues to evolve.