Melissa Tomaska Olivero has recently been named the 2011 Illinois Valley Woman Making History by the Zonta Club of LaSalle-Peru. This award is presented annually to one female role model who has contributed to the history of the Illinois Valley politically, socially, or in the business world. The ISBA Women & the Law Committee has definitely benefited from many of Ms. Olivero’s contributions and we are excited to share a little bit about her many accomplishments with our readers.
Ms. Olivero was born to John and Wanda Tomaska; her mother and grandmother emigrated to the U.S. shortly after WWII and she has a younger sister and brother. Ms. Olivero graduated from Carl Sandburg High School and obtained her B.A. in Political Science from the University of Michigan.
In college, Ms. Olivero received the University of Michigan Presidential Leadership Award and was named Distinguished Military Graduate. From 1990-1994 she served on active duty in Germany and Ft. Lewis, WA. She commanded a Military Police Company from 1992-1993. From 1994-1998 Ms. Olivero served in the Army Reserve and was honorably discharged in 1998 at the rank of Captain. During that time period, she also attended law school at Northern Illinois University College of Law and obtained her Juris Doctorate, magna cum laude in 1997.
In addition to her academic and military career, Ms. Olivero has had a remarkable legal career. She previously served as an Assistant State’s Attorney in LaSalle County for almost six years. During that time, she founded and managed the first domestic violence prosecution unit in LaSalle County. Under her leadership, the conviction rate for domestic violence crimes rose from 50% to over 90%. Ms. Olivero currently serves as an attorney for the National Labor Relations Board. She investigates and prosecutes complex unfair labor practice cases, processes representation petitions, serves as a hearing officer, edits the Regional newsletter, and serves as Outreach Coordinator. Ms. Olivero has also worked in private practice, defending medical professionals, hospital, lawyers, individuals, and large corporations in negligence matters.
In 2005, she married Peru attorney Doug Olivero. They have two sons: Cameron, born in 2007 and Andrew, born in 2010. As a wife and mother of two young children, Ms. Olivero has somehow managed to balance her outstanding legal career with the needs of her family. She also manages to find time to serve on the Illinois State Bar Association’s Standing Committees on Government Lawyers and on Women and the Law and serves on the Board of Trustees of Illinois Valley Community College. She is the scholarship committee chair, a new student mentor, and an Alumni Ambassador on the Northern Illinois University College of Law Alumni Council.
As a member of Zonta International, Ms. Olivero has served as the local President, District 6 Area Director, and a member of the District Board. Zonta International is a worldwide service organization of business and professional people who endeavor to improve the status of women.
Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “You gain strength and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” and that is the way Ms. Olivero lives her life—trying new things and accepting new challenges every day. “Without overcoming fear, I would have never served in the Army, jumped out of an airplane, gone to law school, had children, or run for office; and without having done these things my life would not be as rewarding,” said Melissa.
She is truly a well deserving recipient of the 2011 Illinois Valley Woman Making History award and we are proud to serve with her on the Women and the Law Committee. ■