Working in politically-appointed positions can often be a challenging balance, and 2006 graduate Christina Estes-Werther (LinkedIn) strikes that balance every day in Arizona. The first lawyer in her family, Estes-Werther credits the strong mentoring she received at Gonzaga for preparing her for her career.
Tell us about yourself and your work
I am a native of Arizona and love my home state. I was born in Tucson, Arizona and moved to the Phoenix area when I was seven years old. Following my graduation from Xavier College Preparatory, I returned to Tucson to attend the University of Arizona. While initially an engineering major, I changed course during my sophomore year and was drawn to social work. While I studied for my Family Studies degree, I worked full-time at Casa De Los Niño’s for six years, first in the crisis nursery and later in a child abuse prevention program. During my time at U of A, I met and married my husband Chris and we recently celebrated our 15 year wedding anniversary.
Following graduation from Gonzaga Law in 2006, I began my legal career at the State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona. I began as a committee analyst for the Senate Judiciary Committee and two years later was given more responsibilities as the Deputy Director of Research Staff. In 2009, I was invited to join Governor Brewer’s Office as the Human Services Policy Advisor and spent my remaining three years as the Deputy General Counsel. In October 2013, I was appointed as the State Election Director by Secretary of State Ken Bennett.
Why did you choose to attend law school?
After I graduated from U of A, I continued to work in social services for a couple of years but I was seeking to learn more and was drawn to the field of law. There are no lawyers in my family so it was not an easy task to learn about the process. As I researched and become more exposed to the law, I became more excited and knew it was the right choice for me. Gonzaga was my first choice because of its dedication to public service and social justice and as a Catholic, I appreciate those aspects of my faith being emphasized in my career.
What do you most enjoy about your profession?
I love to learn! Every day I am exposed to new information about the law and state government. Since my time in the Senate, I’ve been working on election law issues but my recent appointment has given me the opportunity to delve into the more nuanced details of election law such as voter registration and campaign finance and I am excited that I will be a part of the 2014 statewide elections.
I also appreciate the opportunity to help others who are beginning their careers in policy or law. I have been given such wonderful opportunities in my life and I am happy to be able to return some of what I have received by listening and mentoring others.
What is the most challenging aspect of your profession?
While I am not registered with any political party and have served in mostly nonpartisan roles, I work in a political environment and I am a political appointee. Every election cycle, the political landscape at the State Capitol is subject to leadership changes and while it keeps my work environment exciting, it can also create uncertainty. I remain focused on adapting to the changing environment and keeping my skills sharp and working diligently. I have confidence that my legal training and experience will assist me in the future.
How has your Gonzaga education influenced your career?
I had such a great experience at Gonzaga. I had strong mentors – the deans, faculty, alumni and other students – and I felt confident that my legal education prepared me for my career because of the focus on practical skills. Gonzaga’s influence is part of my work life each day as I use my skills and help other law students and staff pursues their career goals.
What else are you passionate about?
I love music! I sing regularly at Mass and at home, I play the piano and I am teaching myself how to play guitar. I enjoy spending time with my husband and my family.