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Wolfe finds strength in challenges of her job

By: Corrine Hess//June 12, 2014//

Wolfe finds strength in challenges of her job

By: Corrine Hess//June 12, 2014//

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wolfe-maryMary Wolfe uses her undergraduate degree in secondary education, but not in the usual way.

Wolfe supervises five offices for the Wisconsin State Public Defender’s Office and has used that position to enhance her interest in teaching by mentoring new attorneys.

“I enjoy the discussion and problem solving as we work on an issue together,” Wolfe said. “I try to be as available to the brand-new attorney as the attorney who has years of experience.

“Mentoring really never ends.”

Gina Pruski, training director for the State Public Defender’s Office, said Wolfe is known as someone who has had a lasting effect on the lives and careers of many attorneys.

“If it wasn’t for Mary Wolfe, I would not have survived my first few years as a public defender,” Pruski said. “Mary always took time to answer my questions, calm me down, hear me vent. Mary is what every person dreams of having in a mentor.”

Wolfe has four tips for female attorneys just starting their careers: have passion for what they are doing, be the most prepared person in the room, be assertive and be organized.

“You have to be able to handle the volume of cases, the administrative responsibilities and have a life away from the office,” Wolfe said. “If the system is good, you can be efficient and effective and have time for a night out with friends or family.”

Organization is essential for Wolfe, who is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Fond du Lac office, but also supervises offices in Oshkosh, Manitowoc, Sheboygan and Juneau.

She has done all of that while battling cancer for the past 14 years.

Wolfe had surgery and radiation in 2000. She had a recurrence in 2007 and went through chemotherapy. She had another recurrence in 2011 and has been involved in some sort of chemotherapy ever since, including starting a new round of the treatment April 17.

The effects of the treatment are the worst on the following second and third day, so Wolfe typically does her treatment on Thursdays to minimize the interference with her work.

“The job and work I am passionate about are a godsend to me,” Wolfe said. “Without this work, I would have way too much time to worry about cancer and what is going on with my health.

“I would much rather just do what needs to be done to maintain my health and use all my worry on my family, my clients, my staff and my agency.”


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