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Public Service: Kimberly Fisher

As a prosecutor, Kimberly Fisher often has worked on some of the most disturbing cases that find their way through the justice system. Her cases often involve murders and rapes of children, something that is haunting but compelling.

“It is difficult, and I just have to remember that someone has to do it, and I have a knack for talking to kids about difficult things,” Fisher said. “I feel like it’s what I have to do.”

Fisher earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology from Missouri Southern State University and started as a social worker at the Jasper County Prosecutor’s Office. In her job, she worked closely with victims and often grew frustrated when attorneys recommended sentences she believed were too light for the nature of the crimes involved. When she disagreed with certain attorneys, she said she often was told she didn’t understand because she hadn’t been to law school.

So, she decided to change that. The office’s leadership was supportive, and she chose Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego for her legal education. After graduation, Fisher moved back inland with her husband, first to Kansas and then to Colorado, before ending up in her native Joplin once again.

After earning her law degree in 2003, she expected she’d work in the nonprofit field rather than practicing law directly. But her husband lost his job, so she called her former boss from Jasper County, Dean Dankelson, who now is a Jasper County circuit judge.

“I love how life turns out to surprise you, but you find out where you’re supposed to be,” Fisher said. “He said ‘I’ll make a spot for you,’ and he did. I’ve been here 11 years.”

In addition to Dankelson, Fisher also received mentoring from Theresa Kenney, Jasper County’s elected prosecutor.

Working as a prosecutor was not what Fisher once expected she would do, but now it’s all she wants to do. With mentoring from Dankelson and Kenney, she developed a niche prosecuting society’s most disturbing crimes.

“I am a career prosecutor,” Fisher said. “I don’t have any ambition to run for political office. I’m at the top of where I can be and that’s where I want to stay. I just want to do my job better and find ways to make the system better for kiddos going through the system.”

In her role, Fisher also has sought to improve communication between agencies involved in the legal system, such as her office, law enforcement and the juvenile office. Her changes have included meeting weekly with detectives so that she’s aware of investigations early on and is able to share her thoughts with investigators.

“I know the cases before they land on my desk,” Fisher said. “When we have a child homicide or murder investigation, I am there to hear the investigation and give my thoughts. I think that’s really increased everybody’s level of communication, and we are getting better cases and better outcomes because of it.”

Because Fisher’s work often involves cases that few others want to take, stress management is essential in her life. Time with her husband and son, Truman, keep her balanced, as does a hobby she never expected to adopt.

“In order to keep myself sane, I took up running, which I never thought I would do,” she said. “But it’s a great stress-reliever.”