Kelly Rosa KCPAO Women in Leadership
This Women’s History Month, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office is highlighting some of the depth and breadth of women leaders in our office as part of our “Women in Leadership” series. These profiles are only a few of the many amazing women in our office.
What is your role in the PAO?
I am currently the Legal Services Supervisor for the support staff in Homicide and Violent crimes, Most Dangerous Offender Project, Forensic Mental Health Unit, Collaborative Justice Team, General Crimes Unit, Sentencing Unit, and the front desk staff.
What were you doing before coming to the PAO?
I had just graduated from Gonzaga with a BA in Criminal Justice. I had been accepted to join the Border Patrol, but at the last second I changed my mind and I called the PAO to see if they hired non-attorneys.
What are some of your goals in regards to the work you do?
One main goal is to never get bored in whatever role I’m in and also to keep learning. Every three or four years I switch it up or add something: I started in Records, then went to the Appellate unit, where I was asked to work on an Aggravated Murder trial that lasted over a year. I really liked working with the detectives, so when they created the Most Dangerous Offender Project I applied and was a paralegal with that team for four years.
Around 1997 I was promoted to be the paralegal supervisor for the Criminal Division. In 2001 Gary Ridgway was arrested and I was asked to join the Green River Taskforce. For the next three years I was just immersed in the murders of dozens and dozens of young women. I can’t really articulate how sad I am that society failed those girls and there is no simple answer to why it happened, but I am cautiously optimistic that it can’t happen again.
After Ridgway was sent to prison, Mark Larson (the former Chief of the Criminal Division) had me on special projects for a while. Then I rejoined MDOP, took back my supervisor responsibilities and here I am!
At many points in my career I’ve thought, “Well that’s it, I’ve peaked” but then something else comes along that is just as challenging and fulfilling.
What sort of obstacles have you faced in your field? What was it like dealing with those?
I have never felt that being a woman was an obstacle in my field. I am pretty easy going and approachable and because of that I have to overcome the misperception that I can’t hold my own in a conflict. There is nothing more satisfying than seeing that look on someone’s face when they realize that they seriously underestimated you. Being friendly has been an asset in my career, in addition to being very loyal and at times combative.
Like most women, I have encountered people in and around the courthouse who were physically or verbally threatening. I am so grateful to have male co-workers who will step in as needed. I will never forget the time I was being menaced on 4th Avenue and people were just looking the other way, waiting for the bus. A DPA just appeared out of nowhere and towered over the harasser. All I remember was this huge voice saying “I work with her” and the vulgar man ran away.
What advice would you give to other women who are considering a similar career path?
Do your research, and don’t always trust your first impressions.
When I was in college, a local prosecuting attorney came to speak at one of my classes. It was so uninspiring that it never occurred to me I would want to work at a prosecutor’s office. But it was only six months later that I read an article in the Seattle Times about a prosecutor at King County and I thought, “this is exactly what I want to do.”
My other bit of advice would be to visualize your success. Be courageous and attentive; think boldly, with a vision of your short game and your long game.
Visualize your success as a triumphant rise, lifted by other leaders and co-workers and avoid the notion that you need to tear down other people for you to shine.
Anything else you’d like to share?
When I talk about my job I am reminded of how amazing this career has been. I catch myself at MDOP meetings sometimes, awestruck at the opportunities I have been given here at the PAO.
Catch up with the entire KCPAO Women in Leadership series on our blog at kcprosecutor.medium.com.