Portrait of Maryland’s First Lady, Katie O’Malley

 

 

Katie O’Malley has many different jobs. She’s a district court judge in Baltimore City and wife to Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley. But to Mrs. O’Malley the most important job she has is“Mom” to her four children. 

 

 
Image courtesy of Jay L. Baker/Office of Governor Martin O'Malley
 
 

“Oh you can just throw that down anywhere,” said Catherine “Katie” Curran O’Malley. She was pointing to my umbrella as she greeted me in the foyer of the Government House in Annapolis. She then excused herself for her bare feet as she introduced herself. She was stunning in a casual black and white wrap dress.

 

Her laid-back demeanor stood in stark contrast to the lavish foyer of the Government House. Portraits of governors and first ladies past adorn the walls that surround a wide staircase. A few chairs are in the foyer, a space that could easily fit a couple dozen people. It is easy to imagine the stately functions that have occurred within these walls over the past 150 years.

 

I was there that evening to interview Katie O’Malley, district court judge, mother of four children and wife of Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, who is widely rumored as a presidential candidate in the 2016 election. Mrs. O’Malley is a 1985 graduate of  Towson University. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in international studies with an emphasis on Russian history. When I requested an interview with her for Her Campus Towson, she happily obliged. 

 

Our correspondence leading up to interview is an example of the kind, compassionate woman I spoke with that evening. The day of the interview an unusually heavy rain storm hovered over Maryland, causing flood watches and tornados. Her assistant contacted me several times that day, per Mrs.O’Malley’s request, to insure that I would be safe driving to Annapolis from Towson and even asked if I’d like to reschedule. 

 

I, of course, did not reschedule and made my way to Annapolis.

 

After we met, Mrs. O’Malley led us through a large parlor room to a small sitting room. The cream room with blue and gold accents was feminine and comfortable, not unlike a living room in a typical American household.

 

Set up in the room was a display of coffee and warm pita chips with homemade hummus and guacamole, made in house by the House’s chef. 

 

“Everything that you are eating here you’ll never get anywhere else,” she said. “This is it. It’s only here.”

 

She was particularly interested in learning about me. She asked about what I did in school and my internships. Her kindness and curiosity made her insanely easy to talk to her. She has a superb way of making her guest feel comfortable. 

 

Then Mrs. O’Malley began to tell me her life story from the time she was an undergraduate at Towson to now as a working mom of four and as a wife.

 

“I always thought from the time I was ten I was going to be a lawyer,” she said.

 

However, when Mrs. O’Malley entered Towson in the fall of 1981, she was an occupational therapy major. 

 

“When you are 17 you don’t know what you want to do,” she said. 

 

By the end of her first semester she had decided that she wanted to be an international studies major, a decision that stuck.  

 

“It was a complete reverse, which is exactly what I think kids need to realize,” she said. “You need to see and experience different teachers and different classes. I think that is what happened to me. I got so much more interested in the liberal arts as opposed to the sciences.”

 

While at Towson, she lived at home with her family. Mrs. O’Malley is the second youngest of five siblings. Her father, Joseph Curran, is the longest serving Maryland attorney general in history. 

 

Free time has always been rare for Mrs. O’Malley, even in college. She worked at the Phillips Seafood Restaurant in Harborplace and was a member of the Model Organization of American States, which is similar to the United Nations.

 

“That was fascinating,” she said. “The actual Organization of American States in [Washington] D.C. allowed us to come do our model in their seats so it was like a little U.N., but just for Mexico, Central America and South America.”

 

She talked at length about her love of the Russian language and especially about Towson University.

 

“I loved the school and took advantage of every opportunity it gave me” she said. “Towson was the perfect school for me because it allowed me to do so many things outside of the school that actually gave me credits for school.”

 

After graduating from Towson, Mrs. O’Malley worked in international banking for two years. She then decided to go to law school at the University of Baltimore. She attended while still working full-time in international banking, but soon decided a job in the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office as a law clerk would provide her more flexibility and lead to more opportunities in her field.

 

“They really wanted you to do well in law school because they were hoping if you did well enough and passed the Bar, you’d work for them and go right into their office,” she said. “They’d even give me time to study. Like, if I had a test and had finished all my work, they’d say, ‘Go to the library and study.’”

 

That strategy worked. In 1990 Mrs. O’Malley passed the Bar and became a prosecutor for the Baltimore County Attorney’s Office. Since 2001 she’s been a District Court Judge for Baltimore City. 

 

 

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Mid way through the interview, a pattering of little feet could be heard in the room adjacent to the sitting room. Mrs. O’Malley instinctively knew who it was.

 

“Was that Jack out [there]?” she said. “Jack! Come here. Can you say hi to Alex?”

 

“Hi,” said Jack shyly.

 

“This is my baby,” she said. “Do you want to hang out with us? Do you want to go down and get a taco?”

 

“I already did,” Jack said. “Can I have candy please?”

 

“Sure,” she said. “Go get your candy.”

 

Jack is the youngest of the O’Malley’s four children. She is also mother to Grace and Tara, who are in college, and Will. 

 

Being a mother, Mrs. O’Malley said, is not only her life’s passion, but her reason for being. She said her favorite part of life now is when her children are all home.

 

“We don’t get to go on vacation with all six of us that much, but we just did in August,” she said. “I remember getting in bed at night and thinking to myself, ‘They are all four here!’ We’d stay up late and watch movies. It was a lot of fun. It’s great to have them all around.”

 

Her compassion extends to a multitude of causes. She has seen domestic violence in her work and has worked tirelessly to promote and spread awareness, especially to young people. She said if you see a friend in an abusive relationship you should sit down and talk to them about it.

 

“A lot of times they are just too weak or afraid or maybe too in love to seek that attention,” she said. “If people around them can see a really negative situation going on then they might be their best resources by giving them that support to help them.”

 

She recalled a few years ago, while her daughters were still in high school, when she reached out to their school because she wanted to speak to their class about domestic violence, but was denied.

“A guidance counselor out there told me that they didn’t have that problem,” she said. “I thought, this is where you really need to speak to kids. You need to get them early on at 16 or 17.”

 

In her own personal life, she has been married to Governor O’Malley for over 20 years. They were introduced by a mutual friend in the late 1980s while she was still in law school. In 1990 they got married and Mrs. O’Malley completed law school, took the Bar exam and had the couple’s first child, Grace, shortly thereafter.

 

“It was a very busy time,” she said. 

 

Life has always been busy for Mrs. O’Malley and she said she doesn’t see herself slowing down anytime soon. With rumors that Governor O’Malley will seek the nations highest political office, the presidency in 2016, it doesn’t look like she will be able to. Mrs. O’Malley did not speak about her husband’s political ambitions.  His term as Governor ends in 2014 and term limits forbid him from running again. Mrs. O’Malley said that whatever happens, she will always be working. 

 

“I have no idea [what’s next for me],” she said. “I know I’ll continue to be a judge because I can do that for a long time so that’s what I will do.”

 

For now, the O’Malley’s will remain in Annapolis and Mrs. O’Malley will continue to work, care for her children and whenever possible, get out on the water with the new kayak she received for her 50th birthday. When asked to describe herself in three words Mrs. O’Malley was stumped.

 

“That’s a strange question,” she said. “In three words? I don’t know.”

 

With that our interview ended and Mrs. O’Malley thanked me and escorted me to the front door. Like any mother, she was worried about me getting home safely. She even grabbed my umbrella and opened it for me before I got the chance. Maybe I reminded her of her daughters who were away at school, I thought. She may very well be one of the most notable women in the world one day, but Katie O’Malley is as genuine as they come. 

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About The Author

Alexandra (Ali) Pannoni is a senior at Towson University majoring in journalism with a minor in theatre. She is the founder and editor-in-chief of Her Campus Towson. As the Campus Celebrity columnist for Her Campus Towson, Ali has interviewed Country Music Superstar Chuck Wicks and Major League Baseball Player Casper Wells. In Spring 2012 she was an editorial intern with Baltimore magazine. Currently she is an intern for the nationally syndicated radio morning show, The Kane Show, heard locally on HOT 99.5 in Washington D.C. and Z104.3 in Baltimore.  You can view some of her published work for Baltimore magazine on her website. She loves reading magazines, (attempting) to run, and hanging out with friends and family.