Two Thousand and Six (2006) started with nothing but glass ceilings. We had a new Mayor who wanted to start with a new cabinet, so I lost my job with the City. Starting over as a store-front attorney put my stomach in knots because of how much work is involved for so little money. Last thing I wanted was to be a corporate attorney. At least in the area of housing, I thought maybe my glass ceiling would have been broken – after all, I was just in charge of housing for an entire city – but no, when I applied to be the director of our city’s largest non-profit housing program I was told I didn’t have enough management experience. The (un-just) federal law suit that had been filed against me (read “Third Time’s The Charm”) was getting in the way of my being a private consultant to other cities about exporting Saint Paul’s success at community prosecuting and fixing-up housing. My alma mater wouldn’t hire me to be a Law Professor “because I wasn’t published.” The Minnesota Twins didn’t want my help getting their new stadium funded by the legislature even though I said I thought I could deliver Ellen, my wife’s vote (probably not true). For the Twins perhaps my glass ceiling was sponsoring a bill for community ownership of the team, a la the Green Bay Packers, and venuing half their games in Mexico City.
I was 56, out-of-work, with two hungry mouths to feed at home, when I got the call and jumped for joy! and clicked my heels! The new Chief Judge of Family Court for, of all places, the same County that seven years earlier had sent a predecessor to fight Parenting Plans at the Capitol, wanted me to come be a Child Support Magistrate, a Judge in Family Court! He knew all about Parenting Plans, yet saw me as a judge who would put children’s interests first, while being fair to all. My glass ceiling had finally broken! I will be forever grateful to Judge Swenson, Judge Chu, and the Staff who interviewed me, for letting someone with my rebellious background, perhaps because of it, become a Judge.
I have lived in peace with myself ever since, feeling appreciated for who I am, rather than the someone concocted by my political enemies. I’ve come to witness parenting plans being used in almost every courtroom. In fact, some of my colleagues on the bench who originally opposed Parenting Plans, have come to me and said, “You know, turned out to be a pretty good idea.”
Most important, you know what? In getting to the pinnacle of my career, I never would have changed a thing (except maybe dropping that sign). If becoming a judge would have required me to be different than who I am, then let somebody else be a judge. The same goes for politics. I never did things just to get elected, I always did what I thought was right, and if it got me elected, great! If not, so be it. So no, I don’t have any regrets having been part of The Pledge of Resistance fighting contra aid, or otherwise taking up seemingly unpopular causes. But it’s nice to be recognized as a positive force.