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Women Bisnow
June 10, 2008


This issue of Washington Women is presented by
Reznick Group:
"Building Business Value"


Seen through the curious eyes of a young Howard law student, Washington in the early 90’s was a tale of two cities: impoverished in parts, an urban oasis in others. Michelle Fenty, then Michelle Cross, was struck by the disparity. Fifteen years later, she and her husband, Mayor Adrian Fenty, are at the helm of a very changed capital. 


Greg Whitesell/Examiner


Born and raised in London, of Jamaican heritage, Michelle taught her husband everything he knows. She was, after all, his mentor during his first year at Howard law. “I was a couple years ahead of him, a third year preparing to get out when he was coming in.” The now-Mayor, who naturally had a huge crush on his mentor, and Michelle began dating long distance after she graduated and moved to New York. She returned to DC to study international comparative law at Georgetown and the couple was married in ’97.


Adrian and Michelle at the Mayor’s swearing in ceremony. Michelle, an avid yogi, tells us that she and her husband get through their super charged days without an ounce of caffeine. (Photo by Rick Reinhard.)


“I grew up wanting to be a teacher. Part of that was not being exposed to female lawyers and doctors. It wasn’t until I was much older that I decided on the law.” Now Of Counsel at the Perkins Coie law firm, Michelle’s second job out of law school was for the National Retail Federation. “It was the late 90s and we focused a lot on Y2K issues. I became well versed in writing IT agreements. My specialty is writing them on an international scale.” In 2000, when the Fenty’s twin sons were born, Michelle had a thriving career with technology consultant BearingPoint, which made for a difficult balancing act. In 2005 she left for the firm environment  “I realize I can’t do everything, but I can do enough. As a working mother you can’t try to stay to a rigid schedule.”


Press attention at the Mayor’s inaugural ball. “He’d always been very civic minded,” Michelle says of her husband’s turn to politics. “As his career progressed, it wasn’t a huge shock the day he came home and said ‘I am going to run for mayor.’” (Photo by Rick Reinhard.)


With the best British accent in the District (sorry Ambassador Sheinwald) Michelle tells us the expectations that come with being DC’s first lady are manageable. “People recognize that I have children and a job. They’re incredibly grateful when I show up—I didn’t feel a massive expectation to be out there everyday.” Michelle, it seems, has struck the delicate balance of being a public person with a private life in a city that she’s seen grow since her collegiate days. “I’m really impressed with the development and the opportunities that DC’s progression has brought to its citizens. The development attracts tourists as well adding to the international vibe. In the long term my dream would be to see DC truly recognized as the international city it is.”


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