Missing Life Elsewhere, What I Think Jan Is Going Through

Today in the Dickinson Press Newspaper, I read an article about Dickinson City Attorney Jan Murtha giving her resignation.  Over the past year and a half of having Jan Murtha as City Attorney, I think that she has done a very good job, probably better than any City Attorney that Dickinson has ever had before.

Never once in the past year and a half, did I read or hear about the City of Dickinson being involved in a dispute that got out of hand, where things were not handled correctly.  This is almost unheard of, the City of Dickinson not being in a dispute that got worse and worse over time.  Smaller towns like Belfield and Watford City seem to have legal fiascoes regularly, like Dickinson used to have before Jan Murtha was hired.

What I came to notice, was not only did Jan Murtha handle legal issues for the City of Dickinson, but she became involved in helping Human Resources and Personnel management, just in order to help things get done.  Jan appeared to be one of those people, typically women, who ended up doing way more work than was supposed to be part of her job.

On top of that, Jan had three children and one husband.  I believe that she probably had to stop at the grocery store on the way home from work, cook, do laundry, help with homework, help with school projects, and take care of sick kids.  I felt bad for Jan, I don’t think that this is the life that she had planned.

Jan’s husband Tom was from Dickinson.  I think that Jan understood why Tom wanted to move back to Dickinson, and she was O.K. with that.  While living in Dickinson, Jan used to drive to Bismarck to work as an Assistant Attorney General.  Then Jan ran for an open position on the Supreme Court of North Dakota, but she didn’t get it.

At the time, it probably seemed like not that bad of a compromise, to accept the position as City Attorney of Dickinson, so that she could spend more time in Dickinson with her children and her husband.  But being in Dickinson all of the time, and being involved with the people in Dickinson all the time, Jan could probably feel that it was bringing her down further and further, slowly killing her.

Someone like Jan was probably a bright young girl, with all kinds of hopes and dreams about her future, her career, her husband, her family, her home, what life would be like.  Because she was intelligent and willing to work hard, she got into college, graduated from college, went on to law school, graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, and began working as an attorney in her first jobs.

In her early career, she probably saw herself eventually being a judge, state’s attorney, assistant attorney general, or attorney general of a state.  Why wouldn’t she think this, she was willing to work hard, learn her job, and she had just as much ability as anyone else.

Instead of what Jan had planned, she found herself reviewing contracts to determine whether or not the Dollar Tree discount store and T.J. Maxx discount store were coming to Dickinson, and having to sit through a City Commission meeting for the fifth or sixth time to hear about whether the City could afford to buy Bernie and Paulette Marsh’s spooky store front building.  This already drove the Downtown Dickinson Association Director Jennifer Strange to resign six months ago, she couldn’t take it anymore.

Jan was probably sitting there at her desk more and more often, thinking about where she went wrong, how did her life turn out like this, the only department store that she would ever be able to shop for clothes, in all of western North Dakota will be T.J. Maxx discount store.

More than anything else in the World, at the end of the day Jan probably would have liked to have gone to a nice restaurant with some professional peers, had several margaritas, or several glasses of wine, laughed, joked, and not go home yet to the sobering reality of kids, a husband, and being stuck.

But there aren’t any professional peers in Dickinson, and there aren’t any nice restaurants to go and have drinks in Dickinson.  There are only dirty construction workers, dirty oil field workers, meth addict waitresses, and young Police Officers from the Police Academy in Minnesota stalking the streets trying to arrest everyone for DUI.

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