Celebrating the Women of IMLA

Celebrating the Women of IMLA

Last month was Women’s History Month.  In honor of that, IMLA would like to congratulate all of the nominees from our amazing membership. We would like to recognize those nominated and those not for their accomplishments and commitment to local government across the United States.

Marianne Banks

Attorney – Austin, Texas

Marianne has been active in IMLA (formerly NIMLO) since 1987 and has spent over 36 years practicing primarily municipal law. She was in the first class of Fellows designated in 1999 and has continues to maintain her Fellow designation. She helped establish the Government Law Section of the State Bar of Texas and was past Chair of the IMLA Land Use Section: establishing the land use tours as part of the Annual Conference. Serving on the Board of Directors for IMLA and the Board for the Missouri Municipal Attorneys Association, she has enjoyed presenting at IMLA, TCAA, APA, and the State Bar of Texas. She received the award for Outstanding Public Service as Assistant City Attorney in 1990 and has since served as City Attorney in Georgetown and Big Spring in Texas, as well as an Assistant City Attorney in College Station, Texas and Springfield, Missouri. She also participated in the IMLA Strategic Planning Committee, working to establish a way to acknowledge municipal lawyers who excelled in the field, leading to the creation of the IMLA Fellows Program, where Marianne still enjoys mentoring others today. She received her Doctor of Jurisprudence from St. Mary’s University in San Antonio and her Bachelor’s in Mathematics from the University of Texas at Austin.

Sylvia Firth

Attorney – Austin, Texas

Sylvia served as 141st President of the State Bar of Texas an organization of over 109,000 lawyers in 2021-2022.  She was the first municipal lawyer, only the 7th woman and the first Hispanic woman to ever hold this position. During her year as President, she worked to establish the first SBOT standing committee on Diversity Equity and Inclusion to ensure the important work which was the cornerstone of her presidency continues well beyond her term. Prior to joining the Bojorquez Law Firm, she was employed by the City of El Paso for nearly 20 years, including serving as City Attorney. As an Assistant City Attorney, she supported the Department of Economic Development and advised the city council regarding economic development initiatives, including tax increment financing, (TIFs), tax abatements, 380 agreements and public improvement districts (PIDs). She negotiated and drafter complex resolutions, ordinances, and contracts. Sylvia gained experience in legislative matters as the City of El Paso’s Director of Intergovernmental Affairs. Sylvia was also the Past-President of the Texas City Attorneys Association. She graduated from University of Texas School of Law with a Doctor of Jurisprudence and Saint Mary’s University with a Bachelor’s in Business Administration (Magna Cum Laude).

Lynn Lowe

Senior Resource Navigator, Prosecution and Code Enforcement – Denver, Colorado

As the Senior Resource Navigator at the Denver City Attorney’s Office, Lynn’s main focus is keeping victims safe – from abuse, exploitation, and scams. Lynn’s extraordinary commitment to keeping elders safe and financially strong makes her an excellent nominee for acknowledgement.

The City Attorney’s Office created Lynn’s position to work collaboratively with detectives from the Denver Police Department (DPD) as well as caseworkers in Adult Protective Services (APS) on cases that can’t result in an arrest or APS case substantiation. Lynn was tasked with creating this position during the heart of the pandemic. Three years later, Lynn has become respected throughout the community for her expertise in assisting scam victims and tireless efforts to assist elders. Lynn meets victims in their homes to assist them with everything from changing computer passwords to linking them with medical appointments. She frequently accompanies DPD detectives to meet with victims and has also begun educating community groups about financial scams. She is a hero to so many, as scam victims don’t receive any support or advocacy from any other agency in Denver. Imagine having just lost $20,000 in a scam, not having any money to pay rent, learning you won’t get your money back, and not knowing what to do or who to turn to. Then Lynn walks in your door with the detective and says, “I’m here to help you.”  She listens without judgment, offers resources, and checks in on the elders often. She even offers to go to the store to buy them the groceries they so desperately need. Many of the community members she helps are reluctant to trust a government employee. Lynn’s compassion and dedication help break down that barrier.

Lynn’s knowledge of scams and how they work is exceptional and she routinely conducts her own research on evolving scam trends as well as on brain science and vulnerability to scam techniques. Equipped with these tools, she can educate victims about why they were scammed, reducing their shame and guilt, and arming them with the knowledge they need to avoid being revictimized. Some of Lynn’s scam victims are challenging to work with as they refuse to stop participating in the scam and require repeated follow up and prompting. Furthermore, others have varying degrees of dementia. Nevertheless, Lynn remains patient and judgement free. Her 13 years of experience as a victim advocate and specialization in elder abuse give her the perfect expertise to assist those who have been victimized later in life.

Lynn has also provided training to several community, civic, and church groups and has developed special handouts to help prevent more financial loss. She provided one such training to a local Lion’s Club Chapter as part of her outreach. As a result of this training, she helped a couple identify a fraudulent phone call later that week – they called to thank her for equipping them with such helpful tools. In another instance, she arrived in time to stop an elder from giving $40,000 to a scammer.

“Lynn Lowe has provided outstanding support to the Denver Police Department’s Special Victim’s Unit.  Her role as the Senior Resource Navigator is crucial to a vast number of cases which are initially investigated by the SVU and found to not merit a criminal investigation but where system supports of some manner are needed,” notes Sgt. T.J. Blair.

“In her role as the Senior Resource Navigator, Lynn is a trailblazer. To our knowledge, no other advocate in a prosecutor’s office has created the handouts and tools needed by scam victims or gone to as much effort to assist this often-overlooked category of financial crime victim,” says Linda Loflin Pettit, her supervisor. “Lynn is passionate about educating community members of all ages on how best to avoid being scammed. She is a comfort and trusted resource for older victims and an invaluable member of the Denver City Attorney’s Office.”

Denise Myrick

Paralegal – Pensacola, Florida

Her name is Denise Myrick and she has been a paralegal for 30+ years. She and I were hired to be legal assistants/paralegals for the City of Pensacola in October of 2021. While working with her, I got to know her incredible life story that has made her the strong, caring, and uplifting woman that she is today! A little background on her is that she grew up the only girl with brothers in Harlem. There was some trouble that lingered around in her life, but she did not let that take her down! She joined the Airforce and began her life! She had a daughter that passed away in a tragic car accident on Thanksgiving a few years ago and was left as the sole caretaker of her 3 grandchildren. She is not currently married, so she has had to take on this journey alone. Working a full-time job while also raising three kids to be well-rounded good people is a feat few people can handle, especially in her retirement years of life! Those children and her have had to endure hard times together, but they were always together! She has made such a beautiful life for them after such a tragic event! She is not only that loving and caring with them, but with everyone that comes into her life! I am younger than her and she has taken me in like I was her own daughter. She is not only supportive in my work life, but also in my personal life. She is known around City Hall for her upbeat encouraging attitude and her DELICIOUS food! She walks around and talks to everyone and asks about their families! She is involved with her church and is willing to give the shirt off of her own back to help someone else out! Her knowledge, wisdom, and experience are book worthy! She is the true definition of resilience, strength and perseverance. She deserves to be recognized for the incredible woman she humbly is! I think she is truly a one-of-a-kind special woman!

Cheryl L. Ronk

Senior Associate – Detroit, Michigan

Cheryl L. Ronk, who has been a Senior Associate with the City of Detroit Law Department for 5 years, graduated from Thomas W. Cooley Law School, Cum Laude, with a J.D. degree and from Michigan State University College of law with an LL.M.  degree in Intellectual Law.

During her time with the City law department, she has handled a large case load ranging from 1983 excessive force claims to ADA violation claims.  While handling these claims, she successfully tried an excessive force claim in the United States District Court of the Eastern District of Michigan. She has also handled appeals in the Michigan Court of Appeals, United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit and the Supreme Court of the United States.  A notable published opinion is Jones v. City of Detroit et al, 20 F.4th 1117 (6th Cir. 2021) which stands for the holding that neither the Americans with Disabilities Act nor the Rehabilitation Act permits a claim of vicarious liability.

Previous to working for the City, she worked as a civil defense attorney and had a notable decision with the Michigan Supreme Court, Monat v. State Farm Ins. Co., 469 Mich. 679 (2004), which stands for the holding that where collateral estoppel is being asserted defensively against a party who has already had a full and fair opportunity to litigate the issue, mutuality is not required.

Additionally, Ms. Ronk has been very active in Detroit community activities.  She was the law department team captain for the American Heart Walk where the department raised more than any other City of Detroit department for the charity. She also has participated on numerous occasions in Halloween in the D – Truck of Treat, Project Clean Slate (helping residents purge criminal records to better obtain employment), and Motor City Make-over (a yearly project to clean up trash in the Detroit neighborhoods).

Pam Whitmore

Attorney – Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pam has over twenty years of experience in the areas of local government law, municipal litigation and conflict management services. She currently serves as city attorney for the City of Mankato, City of Marshall, City of Wells and City of West St. Paul. Pam also offers facilitation and training services focused on governance, communication, organizational health and collaboration. Before joining Kennedy & Graven, Pam created and ran a conflict management and collaboration program at the League of Minnesota Cities Insurance Trust where Pam worked with groups, such as elected officials, staff or public experiencing conflict or seeking facilitated resolution of matters. Pam also is particularly well versed in open meeting laws and data practices, and trains often on both topics for other organizations across Minnesota. Pam serves as President of the Minnesota Association of City Attorneys, and, in that position, has prioritized programming and events focused on promoting diversity, equity & inclusion.