Having the time of her life

Stephanie Martz is having the time of her life.

“I have to say, I am in a perfect place right now. There is not a better job for someone who loves to be a lawyer and enjoys the day-to-day events,” Martz said.

Martz, 44, who grew up in Duncansville, is chief counsel for U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., chairman of the Senate’s immigration subcommittee and a key driving force behind passage of an immigration bill that offers a path to citizenship for 11 million undocumented aliens while dramatically boosting border security.

As Schumer’s chief counsel, Martz oversaw all negotiations and was one of the key staffers involved in formulating the concepts of the bill and drafting it.

After the bill was introduced, Martz led Schumer’s efforts as it went through the Judiciary Committee, where more than 100 amendments were considered before it went to the floor for final passage in the Senate in June.

“Stephanie is a key part of my judiciary team and was invaluable during the immigration reform debate in the Senate. Her tenacity and skill know no bounds,” Schumer said.

Martz knew from the age of 12, when she read a biography of Daniel Webster, that she wanted to be a lawyer.

“He stood out to me as a dashing historical figure in his 20s who argued cases before the Supreme Court. It was a combination of his being a lawyer and his involvement in government. He ignited something in my imagination,” Martz said.

However, she first had to give journalism a try.

After graduating from Hollidaysburg Area Senior High School in 1987, she went on to Georgetown University where she served as editor-in-chief of The Georgetown Voice.

“I had to give it a try before law school,” Martz said.

“I always had law school on the brain, but I am glad I gave journalism a try. It is a terrific job.”

Martz had the opportunity to work as a news desk assistant and stringer at the Washington, D.C., bureau of the New York Times.

“I didn’t fully appreciate it at the time. It was an exciting and prestigious job to have right out of college. There was nothing better than to see how it was done in a big newsroom,” Martz said.

She also worked as a reporter at the Charleston,W.Va., Gazette, covering crime, state and federal courts.

“That did not discourage me from wanting to work in the courts,” she said.

Martz headed off to Stanford Law School, where she graduated with honors in 1997. While there, she also served as executive editor of the Stanford Law Review.

After law school she moved on to Washington, D.C., where she worked as a law clerk in the United States Court of Appeals and then held positions as an associate at two law firms.

In 2004, she became litigation counsel for the National Chamber Litigation Center, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and in 2005 she accepted a position as senior director for white collar crime policy at the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

In that position, she founded the first policy department at NACDL, the first to exist at any national bar association, to address white-collar crime issues.

She left NACDL in January 2009 when an opportunity arose to work for Sen. Schumer, where she reviews legislation and formulates policy for the Judiciary Committee and other legal issues in the Senate. She also advises Schumer on judicial nominations and orchestrates legislative strategy in committee and on the floor for judiciary and national security issues. She also drafts speeches and other statements.

Martz said her work on the immigration bill has been the highlight of her career.

“Having the bill pass on the floor of the Senate was a tremendous achievement I will never top,” Martz said.

Martz said her father, D. Stephen Martz, a longtime local bank executive, was an important role model.

“My dad, from when I was at a young age, would talk to me about things involved in banking, the management stuff he dealt with like finances and economic issues. I learned a lot from him,” Martz said.

She credits Kathie Richardson, her AP American History teacher, as having a major impact on her life and her interest in becoming a lawyer.

“She was extremely knowledgeable about politics and policy. She took a real interest in me and helped me figure out what I wanted to do,” Martz said. “She stayed in touch with me and was totally supportive. I so adored her. She was a terrific teacher.”

Richardson was flattered by Martz’ comments.

“I am very honored that she said she considers me someone who helped her along the way. That is a privilege, no doubt about it,” Richardson said.

Richardson said Martz was one of the most outstanding students she ever had.

“She was a brilliant young woman. I remember her maturity as a young woman, her curiosity and interest in the world beyond Hollidaysburg,” Richardson said. “She wanted to make a difference. That was very obvious about her. Her leadership qualities were pronounced as a young woman. In life you come across people who shine. Stephanie was among that small contingent.”

Martz also fondly remembers Donna Wolfinger, who was librarian at the Hollidaysburg Area Public Library and chaperone for the youth and government program she participated in.

“I used to go to the library almost every day and talk to her. She encouraged me to get involved in the youth and government program,” Martz said. “During my senior year in high school I was elected the youth governor of Pennsylvania.”

Wolfinger said she is not surprised by Martz’ success.

“She was very active and intense in everything she did. It had to be done correctly. Second best wouldn’t do. She was the kind of person who was looking to be the best she could be,” said Wolfinger, who today is pastor of the St. Clairsville Lutheran Parish.

High school math teacher Jim Hancuff also remembers Martz.

“She was a very good math student, a very personable kid. She was the type of kid, you just knew that she would be successful,” Hancuff said.

High school classmates also aren’t surprised by Martz’ success.

“She was driven. You could tell she was driven and wanted to succeed,” Casey Higgins said.

“She was very smart, very sweet and very approachable. She was also a very good athlete,” Tracey Lynn said. “I always knew she would do something along those lines, especially something involving government.”

Hollidaysburg attorney Jeffrey Muriceak said he and Martz were friends since junior high school.

“Stephanie was a very bright, talented and motivated person. She excelled academically, musically and athletically. She was well-liked and respected by her peers,” Muriceak said. “I remember as early as our time in junior high school discussing a mutual interest in eventually attending law school, and both she and I accomplished this goal.”

Martz said she doesn’t get home often but remembers growing up in Penn Farm Estates.

“I remember having a lot of freedom, lazy days in the summer when I would go on my bike and ride to my friends’ homes,” Martz said. “In the winter, I remember the big farm hill behind our house where we would go sled riding.”

Martz said her father encouraged her to give back to the community.

Martz and her husband, Chris Davies, who she met at Stanford Law School, recently donated $100,000 to the Stanford Law Fund. Both have served on the school’s Board of Visitors.

Martz loves her job and expects to continue to have fun.

“I was scared coming into this job. It has worked out better than I would have anticipated. I am having the time of my life.”