For Milwaukee County Assistant District Attorney Elisabeth Mueller, working at the DA’s office isn’t just a job. It’s who she is.
She found that out the hard way years ago, when she spent five months at a private law firm after working in the Monroe County DA’s office. Mueller said she gave it a try because she thought the better pay would be worth it.
“To me the work didn’t have meaning,” she said. “I would never say that anyone’s work is meaningless. For me, I didn’t like people just arguing about money. I didn’t find any meaning in that. I knew I had to get back to something to me that was meaningful. So, I called the Milwaukee DA’s office.”
She said she realized that money would not make her happy or give her the ability to sleep at night. After two weeks of working in downtown Milwaukee, she took a position with the children’s court in Wauwatosa. Thirteen years later, she is not only happy but found a niche that gives her purpose.
“I was like, ‘This is it, this is where I belong,’” she said.
Mueller said her motivation for handling child welfare cases comes from her luck as a child having grown up with a mother who pushed her and a very supportive father.
“I want that for every kid,” she said. “I want every kid to know that love, safety and stability I had. If people don’t have the basic foundation of stability at home, that negatively impacts their whole life. I want to work to make things better for kids.”
In addition to that motivation, Mueller offers a unique perspective few in her field have. Before working in the Monroe County District Attorney’s office, she was an assistant state public defender and represented people accused of misdemeanor offenses. Usually prosecutors eventually become criminal defense attorneys. But Mueller turned that trend on its head, and that experience became an advantage.
“Having worked with people as defendants has really helped me understand that we are dealing with people,” she said. “Every person has a story and there’s a lot more to it. I try to make it so that they can correct their errors and learn from the past.”