Shelley D. Chatfield
Shelley Chatfield grew up on the banks of the Ohio River in Owensboro, Kentucky. A high school trip to Washington, D.C., spawned a quest to become involved in government and the world around her. As a young college graduate, Shelley set her sights on working in the halls of Congress, so she headed to Washington, D.C., with only a few dollars in her pocket. She pounded the pavement until Kentucky U.S. Senator Wendell H. Ford offered her a job in his mailroom. Her sage grandfather gave her one piece of advice about her new job. “Be the first one there in the morning and the last to leave at night,” Shelley says. “It worked. I quickly got promoted to legislative correspondent.”
Senator Ford was Chairman of the Senate Rules Committee, which meant he was charged with the coordinating and planning the Inauguration of President George H.W. Bush. As part of his staff, Shelley participated in the arduous preparation for the security and seating of our nation’s government and business leaders as well as working with others to ensure the ceremony ran smoothly on Inauguration Day. As part of Ford’s legislative staff, Shelley became enthralled with the process of creating, debating, and analyzing legislation. She also gained a significant appreciation for attorneys, who comprised a large part of Ford’s staff. Working with attorneys on Ford’s staff and throughout the Capitol motivated Shelley to go to law school. She graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 1993 where she was the Notes Editor of the Kentucky Law Journal.
Shelley maintained her interest in public service and served as one of the first law clerks for U.S. District Court Judge Jennifer B. Coffman, judge for the Eastern and Western Districts of Kentucky. “I loved researching and writing about the law and the legal discussion and analysis that accompanied clerking for a judge,” Shelley says. From her clerkship, she took a position as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in Lexington in the Civil Division, handling cases involving health care fraud, prison litigation, and medical malpractice defense work.
Her next role was personal: she stepped out of the practice of law for a few years to focus on her three young children and moved from Kentucky to Connecticut, Seattle, Chicago, and Brussels, Belgium, still serving as an active school and community leader. In 2010, she decided she had been away from the Bluegrass State far too long, and moved home to Kentucky, settling in Bowling Green and coming to work for ELPO. “I appreciate Kentucky much more than I did when I was growing up here, the values and the friendliness,” Shelley says. “There’s a real warmth to the people of Kentucky.”