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Alumni Spotlight - Dana Nessel

Dana Nessel - WBHS Class of 1987

Dana Nessel is a 1987 graduate of West Bloomfield High School and currently serves as Attorney General for the State of Michigan. Attorney General Nessel took some time to update our community on her journey since leaving WBHS and she shared some advice for current students. 

WB: What have you been up to since graduating from West Bloomfield High School?

DN: Since my time at West Bloomfield High School, I attended and graduated from the University of Michigan and Wayne State University Law School.  I went to work first in the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office as a criminal prosecutor and later struck out on my own in private practice.   

I had the opportunity, the honor, and the privilege to represent the DeBoers in a groundbreaking case that was ultimately heard by the United State Supreme Court.  That decision allowed marriage equality across the nation, and I am deeply proud of the work so many of us did on the case.  It is the combination of that work – as a prosecutor and a defense attorney – which ultimately inspired me to seek the Michigan Democratic Party’s nomination as their candidate for attorney general.

I was sworn in on the steps of the Capitol as Michigan’s 54th Attorney General on January 1, 2019 and immediately took steps to restore the department’s commitment to serving as the people’s attorney.  My core initiatives for the Department are based upon that commitment: to give the Department of Attorney General back to the people we serve. 

Our consumer protection division has taken a lead role in fighting against companies that try to take advantage of Michigan consumers, whether it be through unfair utility rate increases or unscrupulous business practices.  The Department’s Auto Insurance Fraud Unit was launched to investigate and prosecute individuals and businesses that exploit Michigan residents and the system designed to protect the safety of Michigan’s drivers.  Additionally, the office’s first Payroll Fraud Enforcement Unit was established to crackdown on individuals and businesses who try to cheat Michigan’s workers out of their pay and retirement benefits.   

As Attorney General, I also prioritized our state’s most important natural resource – its Great Lakes.  The environmental protection division is actively fighting to ensure clean air, water and energy for Michigan’s residents so that our most valuable assets are preserved for generations to come.  I have dedicated Department resources to joining the battle to combat the largest public health crisis in the nation – prescription drug addiction — and to stem the tide of Michigan’s biggest environmental crisis in decades – PFAS contamination.

As the State’s Chief Law Enforcement Officer, I launched Michigan’s Elder Abuse Task Force, in partnership with the Michigan Supreme Court, to stop the rise of crimes against one of the state’s most vulnerable populations.  I formed the Hate Crimes Unit to investigate instances of hate crimes and offer departmental resources to assist our local and federal law enforcement partners. I continued the Department’s criminal investigations into the Flint Water Crisis and sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.  I also recently launched an effort to investigate reports of abuse within the Boy Scouts of America.  And, the Department launched a Conviction Integrity Unit to investigate claims of innocence so that even when we prosecute the state’s most heinous crimes, we can ensure the public’s trust in our criminal justice system.

I am incredibly proud of the work done by the attorneys, investigators, and personnel of the Department of Attorney General.  It is exhilarating to be able to help so many people in our state.

On a more personal note, I live in southeast Michigan with my wife, Alanna Maguire, and twin sons, Alex and Zach.

WB: How did West Bloomfield High School influence your current path?

DN: Our educational experiences help shape the individuals we become and that is especially true of our high school experiences.  For me, West Bloomfield High School is the place where I experienced intellectual, emotional, and social challenges---just as we all do in high school.  The education I received at West Bloomfield High School helped prepare me for life as a college student at the University of Michigan.  The social network I developed as a student was a source of support for me in the rest of my life, and still is to this day.

I believe our impact on the world is directly related to the experiences that impacted our lives.  Certainly, my high school experience contributes to the actions I have taken as an adult and the place I find myself in, today.

WB: What advice do you have for our current students?

DN: Be true to yourself---even if you are not sure exactly who you are, yet.  Neither my personal life, nor my professional life followed a traditional path, but that does not mean they are any less fulfilling.  I made choices over the years based on what I wanted for myself, my career, and my life without seeking approval from others.

Elected office was not an obvious next step in my career trajectory, but it was something I felt compelled to seek out because I believed I could do a better job for the people of Michigan.  I was the admitted underdog as a candidate for the office of attorney general.  I embraced a nontraditional campaign style and led with my personality and my accomplishments.  That is the same way I conduct myself as attorney general.  I want to know the details of the cases being worked on in my department.  I want to know the challenges and accomplishments of the talented people who work with me.  I sought out the job because I wanted to do the job, not just hold the office.