Q&A with Exemplary Public Service Career Award Winner Nancy Daniels
FSU Law presented alumna Nancy Daniels (’77) with the Exemplary Public Service Career Award in November 2020. The award recognizes a Florida State University College of Law graduate who has dedicated their career to public service and who has demonstrated exceptional character, integrity, humility and professionalism, as well as the highest regard for ethics. The following Q&A provides details about Daniels’ commitment to public service and what she has been doing since retiring as public defender for the Second Judicial Circuit of Florida in 2016.
What did receiving the 2020 Exemplary Public Service Career Award mean to you?
Receiving the 2020 Exemplary Public Service award was deeply meaningful to me. I value public service, and I’m so happy that our law school honors it with this award. Plus, it is wonderful to be in the company of previous winners Kris Knab and Debbie Kearney.
What did you like most about your public service work?
I loved representing clients in court more than anything, but every aspect of my work has been satisfying. Over the years, I have been a law clerk, an assistant public defender, a teacher, an elected public defender and now a consultant doing legislative analysis for the Florida Public Defender Association. All have been rewarding.
What have you been doing since retiring in 2016?
After retiring, I went to work “part-time” for the Florida Public Defender Association. It has been more demanding than I anticipated, but it is good work. I also serve on a number of boards and do various things at my church. I am always busy.
Why do you think it’s important for students and alumni to consider public service work?
I preach the value of public service because it is purposeful and satisfying for your soul, and it is conducive to work/life balance.
You previously served on the committee that formed this award and selected recipients—why did you choose to volunteer to serve on the committee and why was that important to you?
I was so impressed when the dean agreed to have our law school begin giving this award, and I found that she went about the selection process in a very rigorous manner. It gave me joy to read the nominations—there are so many inspirational, long-serving public servants who deserve the award.
What one thing do you wish people knew about public service work?
I wish people knew that public service legal work is not a career for second-rate lawyers. There are many AV-rated government lawyers who are outstanding scholars and practitioners.
What does being a public servant mean to you?
Doing public service as a lawyer has made me proud. When people make lawyer jokes about lawyers being greedy and sneaky, I absolutely hate it and can point proudly to the many wonderful public defenders, state attorneys, court lawyers, legislative lawyers and others who have not done their work for the money
As printed in the 2021 issue of Florida State Law magazine.