Today is Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Woman of Wilson: Shelley Thompson Gardner

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Shelley Thompson Gardner

Attorney Shelley Thompson Gardner became interested in law at a young age.

The Wilson County native remembers her grandmother reading law books to her at the kitchen table early on. "When I was in the sixth grade, I told my family I wanted to be a judge one day and make a difference," she said. "Obviously, I had to be an attorney first."

Gardner graduated from Lebanon High School and Cumberland University before graduating from the Nashville School of Law.

She is currently an attorney for the 15th Judicial District Public Defenders Officer - a position she has held for more than 13 years. "I have been in charge of the criminal courts in Wilson County and have been involved with our 15th Judicial District Drug Court Program for the last 11-plus years," she explained.

Gardner handles cases anywhere from public intoxications, DUI's and domestic assaults - all the way to drug offenses and homicide.

"The most challenging aspect of being an attorney is not being able to give my clients at 100-percent guarantee in the outcome of their case. As you learn in law school, the only thing certain in law is that nothing is certain," she said. "I like to be that 'yes' or 'no' person without the gray area in between. That is why I turn on attorney-mode while I am at work. When I come home at the end of the day, I leave work at work and turn on my mom/wife mode."

Gardner has been married to husband, Joe Gardner, for 13 years. They have two sons, Jace, 9, and Jonah, 7.

Gardner donates her spare time to a slew of organizations. She is president of Wilson ONE, on the board of directors for the Wilson County Fair and is a member of the Lebanon Wilson County Chamber of Commerce. She is also a Lebanon Breakfast Rotarian and active with the 15th Judicial District BAR Association and Tennessee Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

In 2014 Gardner tried her hand in politics - pursuing her lifelong dream of becoming a judge. She said she will "absolutely pursue that adventure again."

"It is something I have always wanted to do. I learned a lot about running a campaign, about myself and came in at a close second," she said.

The woman Gardner most admires is her mother, Trish.

"She taught me to always have faith, that education is very important, to have good work ethics, to be loyal, that being independent is a good thing but it's also okay to need help, and above all she taught me unconditional love," Gardner said. "Where I am and the person I am today is because of my mother. She is not only my mother, but my best friend."

Staff Writer Sabrina Garrett may be contacted at

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