Melissa Manderschied had established a career in community outreach and land-use planning before deciding to become an attorney.
A degree from William Mitchell College of Law followed and then a decade-long stay at Kennedy & Graven Chartered. Manderschied worked closely with cities and townships on issues ranging from economic development and zoning to building code enforcement and housing.
When the Bloomington city attorney post opened in 2016, she contemplated going in-house. As a contract attorney Manderschied played a limited role in only parts of any governmental issue or project. “I missed being able to analyze the totality of a project,” she said. “Being in-house was attractive because I anticipated it would offer the chance to see things through from the beginning to the end.”
Manderschied oversees a staff of 14, with more hiring this spring. The office prosecutes non-felony cases and offers legal counsel to all city departments, boards, and commissions. COVID-19 has created a host of new challenges for the department, she said, for example, wearing masks for hours during court hearings while navigating the county’s increased security.
Subpoenaed witnesses and defendants were confused over whether to appear if they have COVID symptoms. Staff members had to develop new ways to manage huge video and data files while working from their homes. “So much change and uncertainty for such an extended period of time has been hard,” Manderschied said. But the pandemic also offered opportunities to work without being present in a physical courtroom, a practice that could lead, she said, to “greater access to justice and the justice system.”
Manderschied currently volunteers with several legal organizations and a domestic abuse nonprofit. But she recalled working about a decade ago with numerous public, private, and nonprofit organizations to prevent and reduce foreclosures as a highlight of her community contributions. “It’s old news now, but what we accomplished was pretty amazing,” she said.
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