Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: Trish Hughes Kreis

Well, I have put it off long enough! Sure, it was easy to prod my fellow Board Members to “tell me a little something about you” but now it’s my turn and I’m speechless! (I know . . . hard to believe.)

Plus, it’s not that easy to interview yourself.

Here goes!

Trish and Joelle enjoying a firm fundraiser

Tell us about your professional life.  I am the firm administrator of Murphy Austin Adams Schoenfeld LLP and helped them open in 1999 but have worked with some of the attorneys at Murphy Austin for far longer.  I got my Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology while double-majoring in Psychology and Peace War Studies. (I was kind of a hippie and had aspirations of joining the Peace Corps and then working toward world peace. You know, the usual.)

Neither of those things happened but I haven’t given up on those two goals. There is still time!

Even a hippie needs to make some money so I worked at temp jobs for a while and landed at a law firm in the early-80s.  I remember walking up to the large, wooden double-doors and feeling pretty excited that I would be working at a LAW FIRM. Was there a drumroll too?  Maybe a band playing?  As I said, I was pretty excited.

Rach, Robert and Trish at the 2017 State Fair

I fell in love with the firm (which was Marron Reid) and met a few of the attorneys I work with today. I started as a temp secretary and word processor and found a regular gig there as secretary.  I eventually left to stay home with my daughter who needed heart surgery at two months old. The doctors said she was fine after the surgery but I couldn’t bear to leave her so soon after surgery. (Don’t worry; she is now a healthy, 28 year old newlywed!)

After a few years as a stay-at-home mom, I entered the workforce again and, with a brief stint at a three attorney appellate firm in between, came back to Marron Reid. I was secretary to the managing partner for a few years before convincing him I could tackle the recently vacated administrator position.  I suspect he promoted me because, as he likes to remind me, I was not the best secretary he ever had. (Probably because I taught him to put his own coffee cups away instead of leaving them in his outbox.)

Trish, Robert and Mickey at Epilepsy Awareness Day at Disneyland (2016)

I now have more than twenty years of experience as a legal administrator and consider my specialties closing offices (I’ve closed three – not my fault, I promise!) and moving (I’ve lost track of how many moves I have orchestrated but I have organized so many that I have spreadsheets for my spreadsheets).

Looking back at my college degree and choice of majors, I think they have definitely served me well as a legal administrator.

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board?  I think I have to blame Cindy Harris for becoming involved on the Board!  Cindy has since retired but she was in the same building as I was when I became a new administrator.  She reached out and told me about the SVALA and was very helpful to me as a newbie. I have found the same kindness and mentoring from many other administrators and am extremely grateful.

I was an SVALA member for a while before being lured to a lunch with a few board members. The next thing I knew, I was working on the SVALA newsletter. That was back when we actually had to cut and paste and mail in a mock-up to a printer! (I cannot believe how old that makes me seem.)

I have served on the SVALA Board of Directors for several stints as Newsletter Editor and now Communications Chair with a stint or two as Board Secretary sprinkled in.  I love to write so the Newsletter and Communications Chair have always been my favorite Board positions.

Richard, Trish and Robert at Epilepsy Awareness Day at Disneyland (2014)

Tell us a little about your personal life/passion.  Well, as I mentioned I do love to write and have written a few articles through the years on topics affecting legal administrators but one of my favorite topics to write about is my experiences as a caregiver.  My husband and I care for my disabled brother, Robert, who has lived with uncontrolled epilepsy his entire life. Despite this, he was able to live independently with family oversight until he was in his 40s.  He was in the midst of a health crisis when I took over his care nine years ago and I soon came to realize he could no longer live on his own. It was a whirlwind education on health, caregiving and advocacy.

Robert is a delight to have in our home as he loves to declare everything “excellent” and even declares my meals “delicious.”  Cooking is not one of my passions so let’s just say, he is being very generous.

Robert’s health has steadily declined through the years as a result of the uncontrolled seizures, numerous concussions he has suffered because of falls and due to the boatload of medications he takes daily.  He requires a great deal of care and has numerous specialists on his team but I am grateful to have an employer who is flexible and understanding.

Trish, Robert and Richard

Caregiving reawakened my advocacy tendencies and I soon realized that not only my brother needed help but so did other caregivers. I frequently write caregiving articles for several websites and am a self-described incontinence expert. (Hey, everyone has to be an expert in something, right?).  I am also in the second year of a partnership with four other caregivers (one of whom is my husband, Richard) to write caregiving tips books!  We just released our third book and are very excited to see our little books helping other caregivers.

I am very aware of the challenges facing working caregivers and consider myself lucky to be in a position to help employees and partners alike going through similar challenges. The flip-side of that is I also have high expectations of working caregivers since we have so much to juggle and need to do so successfully.

Thank you for reading my “spotlight” (so much for being speechless)! I would love to run more spotlights on not just board members but also SVALA members. Please contact me if you are interested in telling your story!



Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: DeeAnn MacLaughlin

When we first added the blog feature to our SVALA website I thought it would be fun to learn a little bit about the board members so presented the Board Member Spotlight idea to the board. The overwhelming response was positive but everyone assured me they were very, very boring.

Ha! We haven’t seen one boring spotlight yet! (If you need to catch up on the spotlight interviews, click on the “Meet the Board: 2016-2017” tab at the top of the page and then click on a board member’s name. You will be directed to that person’s spotlight feature.)

Adventures in the air

Speaking of not boring! I am happy DeeAnn sent pictures along with her interview or I would not have believed she had such an adventurous spirit!

While serving on the Board of Directors with DeeAnn I knew she was friendly, diligent and hard-working with a delightful laugh but I had no idea how much her heart was truly an outdoorsman. The only time she sits must be when she is taking the minutes at a board meeting. Just reading about everything she finds time to do makes me want to get outside and go hiking (hey, it could happen).

Tell me you don’t feel the same once you read about DeeAnn!

DeeAnn MacLaughlin
Accounting Manager
Boutin Jones Inc.
SVALA Board Position: Secretary

Adventures with family

Tell us about your professional life. I am the accounting manager at Boutin Jones Inc. and have happily worked here for 15 years. When I first started at Boutin, back in 2002, we were a third of the size we are today.

Prior to that, I worked for two CPA firms. My first professional job was for a CPA that did tax returns for NFL football players. It was so exciting to receive those size 14 shoe boxes full of bizarre receipts; it was like an accountant’s Christmas! I was undecided if I wanted to become a CPA which lead me to give the private industry a try. Working on one set of books vs. thirty was very appealing.

I love my job and the people I work with so, unless I strike it rich, I can see myself working here for many years to come.

Adventures in the snow

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? Truth be told, I was a victim of peer pressure. I was initially asked to be a part of the “nominating committee” for the upcoming board for 2015/16. I was a little confused by the invitation but flattered to be asked (really, all I remember hearing was there will be wine … I was like, OK!).

Joelle Stone and Jessica Miller eventually confessed (strategically after my second glass of wine) that they had an opening on the board for the Law Firm Leadership Luncheon and Holiday Event Chair.  I was thinking….you want me to do WHAT!? ME!? The extent of my event planning experience was limited to my kids’ birthday parties.  I hesitantly decided to step out of my comfort zone and agreed to take on the challenge.  I am now serving my second term as secretary.

Adventures on the water

Tell us something about your personal life/passion. I am married and have two children; my daughter is 20 and my son is 13.

Outside of work, I lead a pretty active and adventurous lifestyle. Depending on the season I do a little of this and a lot of that.

Right now I’m totally enjoying the epic snow and getting my money’s worth from my season pass and snowboarding every week (except for Super Bowl weekend when my Patriot’s won an unbelievable comeback…and no I’m not a bandwagon fan). Fun fact: I was actually at Tom Brady’s very first game against Peyton Manning and the Colts back in 2001 (when I was visiting my husband’s family in Boston).

Adventures on land

Besides snowboarding, I enjoy riding motorcycles. Nowadays, we do more dirt bike riding than street riding and I’ve had my motorcycle license for about 17 years. We do a lot of boating – we have a fishing boat, sail boat and a smaller aluminum boat plus four kayaks. We enjoy camping which we’ve graduated from a tent to a trailer. We camp in the Sierras and go forest dirt bike riding, or camp on the coast and go ocean fishing on kayaks.

Our newest love is our cabin that we just bought right outside of Tahoe. It’s a two story, 4 bed, 2 bath on a half-acre with the American River flowing behind us and the Pacific Crest trail along the side of us…overlooking our ski resort (no, I’m not bragging…these are just the facts people.)!!

Adventures in the new cabin

The history of the property and family that owned it is quite interesting. It was a fifth- generation owned home with the family going back to the early 1800’s. The town we live in is named after the family (which is pretty cool). Every year the annual snow pack is measured in my backyard.

I also love to travel. My most recent big trip was three weeks in Spain to visit one of my oldest childhood friends. No kids, no husbands…this was a well-deserved girls-only trip. Me and two other childhood friends traveled together and, boy, was it a trip of a lifetime! Included here are some pictures of my last few vacations to Spain, Maui, Kauai and Cabo.

Adventures around the world

All in all, finding the balance between work, play and happiness has been quite the journey. I’ve been blessed in so many ways and even through my struggles I’ve found contentment in learning valuable lessons. My struggles are my testimony!

I don’t know about you but I am exhausted just reading about all that activity! From the photos, it sure looks like DeeAnn has found the key to her happiness which makes her a delight to be around.

DeeAnn won’t be on the 2017 – 2018 Board of Directors (I mean, how would she even have time?!) but I am hoping she will consider serving again in the future (there will be wine!). Our chapter has definitely benefited from this energetic woman.

Thanks to DeeAnn for sharing her photos and her story with us. It was about as far from boring as you can get!


Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: Penny Stauffer

I have had the pleasure of serving on the SVALA Board of Directors with Penny Stauffer many times. We have been to a variety of SVALA events and luncheons together but the most memorable moments with Penny are when we find ourselves sitting next to each other at a SVALA dinner and can talk one-on-one about family. Of course we discuss work as well but when Penny talks about her daughter, Kourtney or the love of her life, Charlie, she lights up!

Penny is a smart, well-educated and busy legal administrator who successfully manages the four California offices of her firm. How do I know she is a successful legal administrator? Because, as you will see from the interview, when Penny puts her mind to do something she does it with gusto and tenacity!

If I had to guess, though, her heart is with her family (which also now includes a gorgeous yellow lab!) and that love shines through in this interview.

Penny and Kourtney enjoying a Giants game
Penny and Kourtney enjoying a Giants game

Join me in learning a little bit more about Penny.

Penny Stauffer, MBA
Office Administrator
Stoel Rives LLP
SVALA Board Position: Past President

Tell us about your professional life. I am the Office Administrator for Stoel Rives LLP in Sacramento and manage all four California offices (Sacramento, San Francisco, San Diego and a small office in Truckee). In order to tell you how I came to be at Stoel, allow me to take you on a quick ride through the past.

In early 1985, I became a medical assistant and began working in private practice for two doctors in Nevada City, CA. A year later, to supplement my income, I started working part-time in the evening with a disabled man, Charlie, who required 24 hour care. After a few months, I was asked by the family to come on full-time to care for Charlie. Since Charlie and I were quite smitten with each other, I said yes immediately and quit my other job. Charlie and I began a wonderful life together and I never looked back.

Penny with Charlie and Kourtney
Penny with Charlie and Kourtney

After several years I went back to school and earned my AA in early childhood education which set me up for my next adventure…Charlie and I having a baby and opening a preschool in our home! Oh boy, are we having fun yet?! The preschool was wonderful and served a good purpose for a while, but ultimately became very draining. Well, back to school for Penny.

In 2002, I earned an associate’s degree in paralegal studies and began working for The Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Associate in Sacramento. That was a terrible commute from Nevada City, so we moved to Elk Grove. Once I began living in the Sacramento area, I went back to school at night and earned my BA in Business Management. In November of 2005, I was given the opportunity to bring my paralegal experience to Stoel Rives. Of course, once a paralegal lands at a great firm like Stoel, what could possible come next…yep, I went back to school again and earned my MBA.

In March of 2008 I was promoted to Administrator for Stoel California. I have enjoyed all of my jobs over the years, but the position I hold right now is so very rewarding. It is tough sometimes, but I have been provided so many enriching experiences that I can’t imagine doing anything else.

Penny and Kourtney
Penny and Kourtney

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? I will say it straight…I was strong-armed on to the board by Shauna Manner. 🙂 We attended a conference together when I was a baby administrator and she knew how to strike when the kettle was hot (when the newbie doesn’t really know what she is getting into). LOL! While I was a little intimidated by serving on the board at first, it has become a rewarding experience and I value the time that I work in this arena. I have served as membership chair, president, past president and will be the next community connection chair for 2017-18.

Tell us something about your personal life/passion. As for my passions in life I would have to say my daughter, Kourtney, is my biggest passion. She is a delightful and intelligent young lady that I truly enjoy being around. She is 19 going on 30, but that doesn’t even bother me because she just such a great person. Sadly, Charlie passed away in May 2009 leaving Kourtney and I to take care of each other. While Charlie is sorely missed, Kourtney carries so much of him in her (including the inherent Stauffer Sarcasm), that I often feel like he is still with us in a special way. We love the SF Giants; enjoy road trips to anywhere and of course thoroughly enjoy our beloved yellow lab Bailee Mae. I also enjoy hiking, scrapbooking and memorializing all of our memories for the next generation.

Bailee Mae
Bailee Mae

Kourtney is in college now and I can’t wait to see where her education takes her. Mine certainly took me down many avenues, but each one brought me to where I am today.

Many thanks to Penny for sharing her story and for choosing to serve on the SVALA Board of Directors. The Board has benefited from Penny’s involvement so we are happy she succumbed to the strong-arming by Shauna! 🙂

 Also, in case you missed it, please check out the most recent Business Partner Article from Gallaway Commercial, Inc.! Russel Gallaway shares important tips on renewing a lease or relocating.


Board Member Spotlight

Getting to Know Your President

No, not that President. We are spotlighting our very own SVALA President, Cheri Blethen!

Cheri and her husband, Mark
Cheri and her husband, Mark

I didn’t know Cheri very well when she first joined the Board of Directors as the Website Chair several years ago. I have been very fortunate, however, to have served with her for many years and to now be able to call her a friend and trusted colleague.

My first impression of Cheri was that she was fiercely dedicated. She worked diligently on the SVALA website and took personal pride in making it look the best for our members. I soon came to realize Cheri was not only dedicated to the SVALA and her firm, Boutin Jones, as the IT and Office Services Manager, but to her family.

Cheri and her daughter, Megan
Cheri and her daughter, Megan

Cheri has a huge heart and is an amazing mom, wife and grandmother and clearly lives life to the fullest! Just check out some of her pictures – she’s everywhere!

Cheri tells us more about her experience and how she came to be involved with the SVALA:

I am the IT and Office Services Manager at Boutin Jones Inc. I have also worked as a paralegal in corporate, tax, estate planning, and real estate. I got my start in the legal field by working at my sister’s law firm in Redding each summer. I worked at McDonough Holland & Allen for a few attorneys in the corporate/tax/estate planning practice group. Three of the attorneys I worked with left MH&A to start their own firm, Dentino, Powell & Di Giusto, and I joined them and pretty much did every job necessary from legal secretary to paralegal to bookkeeper to office manager. The Dentino Di Giusto firm later joined forces with Boutin Gibson to become Boutin Dentino Gibson Di Giusto and Hodell, and now Boutin Jones. I am very lucky to work for a great firm and work with an excellent group of co-workers.

Cheri and Mark at the Paul McCartney concert!
Cheri and Mark at the Paul McCartney concert!

Shauna Manner asked if I would serve on the SVALA board about five years ago and I held the position of Website Chair for four years and am currently serving as President.

I love music – any type of music. My husband and I have a few favorite local bands and we try to go to their gigs as often as possible. I love going to concerts of all types. We had the extreme fortune of seeing Paul McCartney at the Golden One Center recently. In my spare time (what is that?), I like to sew for myself and others and have done a few weddings for co-workers and friends. My husband and I have shared a love for Harley Davidsons and taking long and short rides as time and weather permits. We are also huge Giants fans!

Jason and Haley
Jason and Haley

I come from a very large family of six brothers and two sisters and their extended families. I have a fantastic husband and we have one daughter, Meagan. She is the apple of my eye. My husband has a son from a prior marriage, Bryan, and I love him like he is my own. He has blessed us with three wonderful grandchildren – Steven, Jason, and Haley – and a wonderful daughter-in-law, Jesse.

I enjoy being a part of SVALA. The networking benefits are immeasurable and the friends I have made are priceless.

Cheri's son, Bryan and grandson, Steven
Cheri’s son, Bryan and grandson, Steven

Thank you, Cheri. I never would have guessed Cheri rode a Harley! I told you she was fierce!

I have also learned over the years that she is a strong leader who is committed to doing her best for all SVALA members and is able to roll up her sleeves to do the tough work when necessary.

It is a pleasure to know Cheri and I am proud to serve as a Board Member under her sound leadership.


Board Member Spotlight

Board Member Spotlight: Cindy Snook

I am delighted to spotlight another member of the 2016 – 2017 Board of Directors! (We’re almost done with the Board Member spotlights and will need to move on to general members – please let me know if you want to answer a few, painless questions).

Back to Cindy . . . I have long admired Cindy Snook for her professionalism, intelligence, willingness to give back to others as well as her ability to be tough when the situation calls for it. She has successfully managed several local law firms and has several stints of SVALA Board service under her belt. The board appreciates and relies on her leadership and experience.

Cindy and her mom
Cindy and her mom

She not only is a stand-out administrator but also a genuinely nice person who adores her family and is a kick to hang with at conferences or luncheons.

I loved learning about Cindy’s start in the legal community and hope you do too!

Cindy Snook, PHR
Director of Human Resources
Downey Brand
SVALA Board Position: Director at Large

Tell us about your professional life. After graduating from college I worked in a small law firm in my home town of Alturas, California as a legal secretary. That was my first exposure to the legal profession. I was offered a position with the County of Modoc as their Administrator for their Mental Health, Alcohol and Drug programs which I managed for five years before relocating to Sacramento in 1985.

The State Mental Health system had no openings at the time I moved to Sacramento so I applied for a legal secretary position at the largest law firm in Sacramento; Greve, Clifford, Diepenbrock & Paras and was hired on the spot. I quickly advanced up the ladder at that firm and became the assistant to the Administrator and managed their Records Department.  When George Paras decided to leave the firm and do private judging he asked me to go with him and become the Administrator for Grossfeld and Dougherty.

Cindy and her HR team
Cindy and her HR team

That is where my law firm management quest began. I managed several law firms in Sacramento before settling in at Downey Brand, LLP. I went back to school at UC Davis to study for the Professional in Human Resources exam (PHR) and became certified in 2007.  I have been a guest lecturer at American River College for the past seven years in their Paralegal studies program. One of my former partners at Kronick Moskovitz volunteered me to do this a long time ago and they keep asking me to come back and I really enjoy teaching students about the hiring process and how law firms really work!

At my current firm, I am the Director of Human Resources and I oversee the IT, Records, Office Services and staffing and I have been here for two years and this is where I plan to retire.

Cindy with her mom and daugher
Cindy with her mom and daughter

Why did you choose to serve on the SVALA Board? I was always fascinated with ALA as both of my former bosses at Greve Clifford were chapter presidents and I would help them prepare for their meetings, etc. I told myself that one day I would like to be the President! Boy, did I take that task to hand. I have served two terms as President, Past President, Director at Large and President-Elect.

I was appointed Regional Officer of ALA in 2012, where I served two terms. I love the people in our organization and every time I talk to one of my colleagues I always learn something fascinating about their firms and/or their leadership skills. We have such a talented group.

Tell us something about your personal life/passion. Well, let’s see….. I’m married to a local doctor who specializes in taking care of those patients who live in chronic pain and he was recently elected Speaker of the California Medical Association. Together we have a blended family of six (yes I said six) children. Around Mother’s Day we will be blessed with our first grandchild so I’m going to assume that will become my next passion in life. I can’t wait!

Cindy and her husband, Lee
Cindy and her husband, Lee

I also serve on another Board as Secretary to the Sierra Sacramento Valley Medical Society Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the quality of health in our community through education, funding and volunteer support. I love spending time with my family and traveling with my husband when we get the opportunity to take a breather.

Many thanks to Cindy for taking the time to tell us about her career path and why she has chosen to serve on the SVALA Board of Directors. She told herself she would be the President of the SVALA and far surpassed that goal. She is clearly a force!

Also, in case you missed it, please check out the most recent Business Partner Spotlight of Sierra Office Supplies and Printing!