With an average of 5,000 new cases coming into the Marathon County district attorney’s office each year, Theresa Wetzsteon never is at a loss for things to do.
“No two days have ever been the same,” says Wetzsteon (pronounced Wet-Stone), who joined the department in 2002 and became its deputy district attorney in 2006. “I never get caught up, but I’ve never had a bad day either.
“It’s a wonderful job,” says Wetzsteon, who is responsible for prosecuting homicides and all felony sexual assault and animal abuse cases in the county. “There is so much good work that comes out of this office. We help victims (of crime) and protect the community.”
Wetzsteon says the most challenging part of her job often involves finding the right legal balance for everyone involved in and affected by an alleged crime. “I ask myself what’s in the victim’s best interest while protecting the public, and what is justice for the offender?”
UWMC’s academic reputation
A 1991 graduate of Marathon High School, Marathon, Wis., Wetzsteon (then known as Theresa Wokatsch) began her college education at the University of Wisconsin-Marathon County. While she applied to and considered enrolling at several in- and out-of-state four-year universities, she settled on UWMC for several reasons.
“I had heard about its reputation. That it was a very difficult school and that you’ll get a good education. Plus, it allowed me to live at home, save money and help out on the family farm,” says Wetzsteon, whose parents were dairy farmers.
Enrolling at UWMC also eased any anxieties she had about going to college. “Being from a small high school, I had some fears or insecurities about attending college,” explains Wetzsteon, who had 75 classmates in her high school graduating class. “I asked myself: Am I going to make it academically? Will I fit in? But I found UWMC to be a great transition, allowing me to focus on academics without getting overwhelmed by having to also deal with a bigger city or a bigger campus.”
Great preparation for Marquette
The experiences and contacts Wetzsteon developed while attending UWMC from 1991 to 1993, including working as volunteer at the state public defender’s office in Wausau, had a direct impact on the career path she chose and set her up for future college success at Marquette University, where she majored in criminology and law studies and minored in philosophy. She earned her law degree from UW-Madison in 1998.
“My time at UWMC definitely molded my degree choices. Every class I took prepared me for going to Marquette, says Wetzsteon, who also was a member of the women’s basketball team. “I liked the small class sizes, and the professors were very engaging and helpful,” she adds, citing the guidance and encouragement she received from current emeritus professors Mark Brown and Linda Ware.
A self-described “optimist and happy person,” Wetzsteon says a supportive family has been the key to her career success, requiring her to seek balance between her professional and personal lives.
“The work we do in the district attorney’s office is very important to the community, and I could see how you could get easily consumed by it,” says Wetzsteon, a wife and mother of four children between ages 1 and 13. “My family responsibilities help keep me grounded, and I have a wonderful husband.”