UND Law alum, Judge Gretchen Thilmony promotes positive change, in and outside of the courtroom

Women 360: Thinking beyond the bench, Judge Gretchen Thilmony promotes positive change, in and outside of the courtroom

Becker County’s first female District Court Judge, Gretchen Thilmony, strives to use her position for positive change, providing the help, support and resources that people need to get back on track. “I strive to … be the person who can give encouragement and support to those who need it – really need it,” said Thilmony.

Gretchen Thilmony has smashed through not just one, but two local glass ceilings – first, by becoming the first female Becker County Attorney, in 2014, and then, two years later, the first female Becker County District Court Judge.

This year, Mothers Against Drunk Driving selected her as the Minnesota Judge of the Year for her work with a specialty court dedicated to DUIs.

Detroit Lakes started its own MADD panel in 2019, allowing those charged with DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, to complete their attendance requirement here in town rather than having to travel to Moorhead.

Thilmony has been deeply involved in the panel, working regularly with DUI cases in addition to other specialty divisions like drug court and veterans’ treatment court, as well as criminal court. She has attended many MADD panels, first to understand and become familiar with them and what’s presented, and later at the request of a specialty court participant who was going to be presenting and asked her to attend.

“That really meant a lot to me, that she wanted me to be there,” Thilmony says.

Since then, she’s attended at least three local MADD panels in support of specialty court participants, and is committed to going whenever asked.

There is a down-to-earth quality about Thilmony, despite her groundbreaking success as an attorney and judge; a genuine Midwestern warmth and an intrinsic appreciation for people that shines through in her personality.

“Gretchen’s heartfelt compassion, advocacy and leadership for those in need is inspiring,” says Tiffiny Walz, who has known Thilmony for several years. “She is kind, intellectual and thoughtful, and these characteristics make her a real asset to our community… Gretchen is a cheerleader for anyone who wants to make change in their lives, and will be there at the finish line to watch you cross. She is a wonderful human being and friend.”

There is a down-to-earth quality about Thilmony, despite her groundbreaking success as an attorney and judge; a genuine Midwestern warmth and an intrinsic appreciation for people that shines through in her personality.

“Gretchen’s heartfelt compassion, advocacy and leadership for those in need is inspiring,” says Tiffiny Walz, who has known Thilmony for several years. “She is kind, intellectual and thoughtful, and these characteristics make her a real asset to our community… Gretchen is a cheerleader for anyone who wants to make change in their lives, and will be there at the finish line to watch you cross. She is a wonderful human being and friend.”

When it came time for Thilmony to define her career path, she recalls, she decided to pursue law after first debating how to best use her English degree. It was after she got accepted into law school that she realized she wanted to be a trial lawyer. The courtroom was calling to her, she says.

Once she earned her law degree, Thilmony returned to Detroit Lakes to intern for the Sinclair Law Firm, specializing in private and public real estate law.

In 2002, the Becker County Attorney’s Office became a full-time office, meaning the lawyers couldn’t do both public and private practice. Thilmony had to choose a path. She chose to become a full-time Assistant Becker County Attorney. Joe Evans, who was the Becker County Attorney at the time, hired her.

Years later, in 2014, it was Evans she took over for, when she became Becker County Attorney herself.

“It meant so much to me to follow in Joe’s footsteps,” she remarks.

Read the full story from the Detroit Lakes Tribune