Through tragedy and triumph, Amy Mann becomes first woman elected as 30th Judicial Circuit Court Judge

By Autumn Shelton, RealWV

HINTON, W.Va. – On May 14, the voters of Summers and Monroe counties held a historic election, although some may not have known that at the time. 

In the soon to be 30th Judicial Circuit, Amy Mann was elected as Circuit Court Judge, making her the first woman to ever be elected to the bench from that district. 

A couple of weeks following this historic win, Mann took the time to speak with RealWV about the election, her life, and what it took to get her where she is today. Although she said it hasn’t been an easy journey, she credits her family for her positive outlook and for her perseverance to overcome challenges. 

Mann is no stranger to the area. Summers County has been her home for most of her life. 

Although she was born in Clifton Forge, VA, on Dec. 7, 1963, and lived in Covington for a while, at age five her family moved to a camp on the Greenbrier River where they ran their own restaurant. 

In elementary school, Mann’s parents, Perry and Clara McCormick Mann, made the move to Hinton. 

“My brother and I still own the house we grew up in, beside my law office,” Mann said of herself and her brother, Jeff – who is a professor at Virginia Tech as well as a successful author and poet.  

Amy graduated from Hinton High School and later from Concord College (now University) with a degree in education and secretarial studies. She started teaching, as her father had done prior to practicing law, but that wasn’t the right career for her. 

“I realized very quickly that I didn’t think I could do that for the rest of my life,” Mann said. 

So, she opened a catering business that she ran, along with her family, from 1990 until 1999, and she also started work in her father’s law firm as a paralegal. 

Then, following her mother’s passing in 1998, Mann said she had to think about what her life would look like going forward. She was 35 years old, and knew she had to do something different. 

“I didn’t want to be my dad’s secretary for the next 25 years, and I didn’t want to go back to teaching, and I couldn’t make money catering,” Mann said. “I enjoyed it, but I couldn’t make money doing it.” 

After a conversation with her father, Mann decided her next step should be attending law school. After applying to both West Virginia University School of Law and Washington and Lee, her father’s alma mater, Mann made the decision to head to Morgantown for her education. 

“Other than having my child, it was the best decision I ever made in my life because it gave me independence, and it has opened up a lot of doors that wouldn’t have opened had I not done it,” Mann stated. 

Each weekend and during the summer, Mann would drive back to Hinton from Morgantown to be with her family and her husband, Mike, who she married just prior to beginning law school. 

In September 2002, Mann passed the bar exam (on her first try) and entered into practice with her dad. 

At age 41, she had her only child, Michael, who everyone calls Ferrell. 

When her son was younger, Mann said she would often take him with her to the law office, and, as a working mother, she had a tremendous support network to help raise him. 

“I was able to take him to school every morning while my husband would pick him up every evening,” Mann said. “I was blessed because I was able to have him with me for a portion of my career.” 

Ferrell is now a student at WVU, and Mann said she is incredibly proud of him. 

“He is such a kind, gentle, respectful, loving young man,” Mann said. 

Although Mann was able to practice law with her father for many years, he passed away in 2016 at age 95. 

“When he died it really threw me for a loop,” Mann said. “It took me a while to get back on my feet.” 

But, she did get back into work as a sole practitioner and has focused mainly in the areas of real estate and estate planning. She is also one of the area’s primary guardians ad litem handling cases of child abuse and neglect and juvenile settlements. 

According to Mann, she currently has close to 80 cases, and noted that she cares deeply about helping children who have become victims of the substance abuse crisis. 

“I’d like to take them all home with me because I am a mother and I understand how painful that can be,” Mann said. “But a lot of who I am is because of what a wonderful childhood I had, and not a lot of people have that.” 

When the announcement was made that current Circuit Court Judge Robert A. Irons was not going to run again, Mann said she thought about campaigning for the seat and began speaking to her family about the possibility. 

However, just a few days before Christmas 2023, Mann’s husband was killed in a tragic accident. 

Mann stated that her husband’s passing is still raw, and is the most devastating event she has experienced. 

“My life will never be the same, and I miss him tremendously. It’s a part of my life that will never heal,” Mann said.

However, Mann remembered that Mike had wanted her to run for the seat. 

“I think that’s one reason why I decided to run was because Mike wanted me to, and a close friend told me I needed something to focus on,” Mann said. 

For the next four months, Mann did what most people do when they run for office – they kick into high gear. 

“The people of Monroe and Summers counties have been incredibly friendly and open during my campaign,”  Mann said. “My secretary and I went down back roads and knocked on doors because I think a lot of people forget about those people; and we wanted them to be able to put a face to my name. The majority of them were just so open and welcoming. That has really sort of made me feel a lot better about our society in general because there are still a lot of really good, kind people out there.” 

After running a clean campaign, when the votes were finally in, Mann had won – with most of her support coming from her home county. 

“When I won, the first person I thought about, other than my son, who was standing beside me, was my dad. He would be so proud of me,” Mann stated. “I was elected as the first female judge from this circuit and also as the first sitting judge from Summers County since, I think, 1939.” 

Looking back, Mann said she credits her father and mother, who were very different from each other, with her accomplishments. 

“My father was a staunch liberal, and he didn’t hide that, and my mother was a Virginia debutante; and I’m not sure to this day how they got together, but they did,” Mann said, noting that her father’s influence gave her a foundation of confidence and strength. 

“It gave me respect for all people regardless of race, color or creed,” Mann said. “My dad was fired from jobs in Virginia for speaking out against segregation. He was probably fired from a job here, but he kept writing; and he published hundreds of articles in the Charleston paper and the Nicholas Chronicle. He was not afraid to let anyone know how he felt, and he was intelligent enough to be able to back it up.” 

On the other hand, her mother taught her how to be loving, caring and strong. 

“I think the thing that I will remember from all this is that my mother was one of the first women to ever work at the [Covington] paper mill in her department, and she was very proud of that fact,” Mann said. “I had a role model that I could look to and realize that regardless of whether I was a female or male, I could do anything I put my mind to.” 

Although Mann said that she will be closing her law office when she takes on the role of judge, she looks forward to creating a fair and respectful courtroom. 

“I hope that at the end of my term people will say that I was fair and treated everybody with respect,” Mann said. “I don’t believe that belittling a defendant or a parent helps, but I also believe that actions have consequences; and when you commit those actions you have to think of those consequences down the road. As a judge, I will have to determine what that consequence will be, and that is a big load. But, while my goal is to have a courtroom in which there are consequences, when I leave that courtroom, I want to know that I have done the job fairly.” 

As for being the first female Circuit Court Judge in such a rural area, Mann said she hasn’t really put it into perspective yet. 

“To know that, in history, I will be the first female judge is sort of astonishing to be honest,” Mann said. “I don’t know if it has really settled in, and I don’t think I have been able to grasp the enormity of this thing, but I’m sure I will on Jan. 1 when I look at it and think, ‘Wow. Be careful what you ask for, you just might get it.’”

“We still have a long way to go as far as equality is concerned, whether that is gender, sexual, or racial equality, but we have certainly come a very long way,” Mann concluded. “For a female attorney in a very small town like Hinton, and in Monroe County, to be elected as a judge, I think it speaks volumes that the people voted for the person, not the gender, and I’m proud of that.”

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