Former Eagle County Judge Katharine Sullivan is blooming inside the Beltway
August 17, 2018
Editor's Note: Former Eagle County Court Judge Katharine Sullivan is acting director of the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women. The Vail Daily caught up with her during her quick stop in Denver. This is part one of a two-part story.
DENVER — Katharine Sullivan didn't think she'd ever have a job she loved as much as being a judge, but she does.
Sullivan is acting director of the Justice Department's Office on Violence Against Women, and if the Beltway can be anyone's natural habitat, then it's hers.
"I miss everybody, my people and even after 11 years and 45,000 cases, I loved being a county judge and running two problem-solving courts. But I love my country even more, so I came to Washington, D.C., to work for President Trump's administration. I am so privileged to serve this president and Attorney General Jeff Sessions."
Sullivan spends more time on the road than anything not named Firestone. She has been known to hit three states in three days, greeting crowds and visiting programs.
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The Vail Daily caught up with her on a three-day swing through Denver where she spoke at a family court judges conference, was part of a seminar on Gang Sex Trafficking in the United States and toured several facilities, including Denver's Rose Andom Center, one of the country's most innovative programs for victims of domestic violence.
"I am out in the field like this across the country," she said.
Sullivan still runs at a breakneck pace. She'll jump on a plane early Monday morning, fly to a conference somewhere, deliver a speech, then go to three or four programs somewhere in that city. She's usually back in D.C. the very next day.
"I have done three states in one day," Sullivan said.
She said her speeches and her conversations often mention how proud she is to work for President Donald Trump.
"I felt that working for this administration and this president was so important. I wear that very proudly," Sullivan said.
Collaborative community approach
The Office on Violence Against Women deals with four crimes:
"We take a collaborative community approach to holding offenders of these crimes accountable, and serving victims. We are also the federal government's voice in these four crimes," Sullivan said.
None of this is new for her.
"Domestic violence, sexual assault and stalking are all incredibly dangerous crimes that I saw often in my courtroom," Sullivan said. "The seriousness of stalking cases inparticular is often overlooked. Behaviors that might seem innocuous were frequently revealed to be part of a pattern of stalking. But I only knew that because I took the time to read all the text messages and absorb all the evidence," she told a judge's conference. "We all know how tedious yet important it is that we take the time to look for the signs of coercion and control."
Giving it up to give
She and husband Art Kleinschmidt, Ph.D., senior advisor with the Substance Abuse Mental Health Services Administration, gave up their house, their life and friends to work in the Trump administration.
They're in an 867-square foot apartment, which turned out to be a blessing after they went through what they euphemistically call "downsizing."
She was still in Eagle County and Kleinschmidt was already working in Washington. She dropped him at the airport on Aug. 7, 2017, to head to back his D.C. job. She landed her job because she worked at it, making phone calls and working crowds, while running her court at the same time.
She applied, they interviewed her and they hired her.
"I love it," she said.
There have been moments, but she keeps her mind on the mission.
"We had faith when we did this and we still have faith. We believe in the mission and agenda of this president," Sullivan said.
She says learning how the federal government works — and how to work the federal government — has been "fascinating." She lived and worked in D.C. 20 years ago. It's not that much different; there's just more of it.
"Is there room to make it more efficient? Sure. That's what's so great about this administration. The mission is to put as much money in the hands of the people on the ground, where it can do the most good," Sullivan said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and firstname.lastname@example.org.