New deputy attorney: Columbus 'picked us'

5/26/2013 10:45 AM
By Associated Press

COLUMBUS, Neb. (AP) — Withhold your startled looks and compassionate words for newly installed Deputy County Attorney Elizabeth Lay as she moves into town from Lincoln.

Though Lay is ending 10 years living in the capital, she actually grew up in a setting not altogether distinct from this one. Her house in Dumas, Ark. — a town of about 5,000 — had a backyard abutting a cotton field.

The Columbus Telegram reports ( ) that far more farmers and open fields were common growing up there than in Lincoln. A fisher at heart, Lay said casting options in the capital are almost nonexistent. You have to leave the city for that, which Lay does often, escaping to the most remote pieces of Canada when she and her husband, Columbus Walmart optometrist Cody Lay, get a chance. The couple has cut back on their adventures a bit now that they've had their firstborn.

Her hobbies in mind, Lay practically gushed describing the house she hopes to build for her family on fisher-friendly Lake Oconee.

There's also the cultural draw of moving back to a smaller setting and a community's individualized attention, which Lay admits can feel intrusive to some. But she said it's been pretty comforting having community members, who through a small town's tendency to circulate information, found out they're building a house then almost automatically offered up friends and business connections.

"Columbus just kind of picked us," Lay said, adding, "I realize that this is a very southern thing, but I want to just be able to know I can go to my neighbor and ask for a cup of sugar if I need to."

Monday was Lay's first day as deputy county attorney.

Lay said she started looking at Columbus throughout her two years working with the Nebraska Department of Environmental Quality's air compliance division. Her work kept leading her back to the city's robust industrial scene.

She began interacting with the community through her husband and got a feel for the community behind the industry she'd been working with. People emerged from behind the numbers, and Lay said she liked who she met.

Lay said she also sees Columbus as the perfect place to build her dream career as a lawyer. A graduate of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's history program, Lay began getting interested in law through conversations with her professors and subsequently pursued her law degree, becoming a licensed attorney in Nebraska in 2011. Though she's gotten her feet wet with Legal Aid of Nebraska, Lay said it's going to be a new and challenging experience working under Platte County Attorney Carl Hart.

"To work with such an experienced and respected attorney, that's not an opportunity a lot of people are going to get," she said.

Lay took the position for a starting salary of $43,500. She's expected to take over the bulk of Hart's responsibilities — which include advising the county board, inheritance tax law and handling tax foreclosures and death certificates, among others — while he takes over projects that would have gone to outgoing Chief Deputy County Attorney Demi Herman, who is leaving for a job in Saunders County.


Information from: Columbus Telegram,

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