Alumna leads northeast Ohio city as law director
When Amber Zibritosky ’10 first pictured what a future career in public service would look like, running for an elected position in a town of nearly 35,000 people wasn’t quite what she had imagined. While elected office may not have initially been in the plans, Zibritosky, who now serves as law director of the northeastern Ohio city of Stow, said the experience has been a rewarding one.
“I always wanted to be involved in government, but I never thought that I would be someone elected in government until the time arrived,” she explained. “I really love my job. I find it very rewarding and get to experience a lot of different areas of law so I’m always learning. Every time I think I’ve mastered one thing, there’s something new, which was overwhelming the first couple of years on the job. But now that I’ve been in municipal law for seven years, I find the versatility a really exciting and challenging part of the job.”
As law director for Stow, Zibritosky leads both the city’s criminal and civil divisions. On the criminal side, her office prosecutes misdemeanors in the local municipal court. On the civil side, she serves as in-house counsel of sorts, advising city officials, aiding in the drafting of legislation, and defending the city in civil litigation matters. She also advises and represents the judges for the multi-jurisdiction municipal court located in Stow.
Zibritosky started in the City of Stow legal department in 2011 as an assistant law director. Originally from the Akron suburb of Hudson, which happens to sit right next door to Stow, she credits her decision to volunteer with the county prosecutor’s office while studying for the bar with leading her to a fulfilling career track.
“After graduation I came back home to study for the bar and I volunteered to work at the Summit County Prosecutor’s Office. And I did that all the way through when I got my passage results, which came in November. Through that opportunity I met a lot of different people and I was able to meet different prosecutors and local government officials, and it actually helped me get the job,” she said. “When I heard there was a job opening here, the experience, work, and connections I had made while volunteering helped me get the position.”
In 2012, Zibritosky was promoted to deputy law director. In 2014, after the then city law director left to pursue another job opportunity, Zibritosky was appointed to fulfill the end of her former boss’s term as city law director.
“When that happened I was excited about the opportunity, but then I knew I was going to have to run, so I kind of was pushed into it,” she said with a laugh. “The election process was difficult, it was scary in a lot of ways, but it was very rewarding in other ways too. The practice of law is different than an election, but it was interesting because as the city attorney I serve the city, and the city ultimately serves its residents. I knocked on more than 1,500 doors and really met the voters and the citizens our city works for to see what it is they cared about, and that was really important to me and very worthwhile.”
Zibritosky’s current position fulfills her lifelong dream to serve others in her community. From the time she was in high school she said she was interested in the concepts of justice and human rights. Knowing that a career in government or with nonprofits would afford her the opportunity to pursue those interests, she decided to attend law school to earn her juris doctorate.
“I feel very privileged with this job because I am tasked with doing the right thing and the best thing for the people all of the time… My job on the criminal side is to achieve justice, not to just win.. And it’s similar even on the civil side. Our job here is to make the best laws and the best policies and to execute them in a way that is best for the people of Stow, and not just best for the individual people I work for like the mayor or anyone else,” she said.
Like many positions in government, the hardest part of Zibritosky’s job as a public servant, she said, is that she can’t make everyone happy all of the time. While that aspect of the job can be difficult, Zibritosky said she truly enjoys what she does.
During her time at Ohio State, Zibritosky made sure to take classes that would give her the experience necessary to excel in a public service role. From a semester in the Prosecution Clinic to a summer in D.C., a judicial externship, and beyond, she said Ohio State provided her with an environment where she felt she could thrive.
“Ohio State is a fantastic school. It always had, and still does, a well-deserved reputation,” she said. “Columbus is also a great city, and it allows for a lot of opportunities, which I was able to take advantage of in law school. I was able to take advantage of Ohio State’s location to build real world legal experience while still in law school, as opposed if I had attended a law school located in a small town where there weren’t as many opportunities.”
For current students thinking about going into government work, her advice is simple: Always be doing something to keep working toward your goals.