Southeast Missouri State University alumnus Garvin G. Ambrose of Toronto, Canada, has accepted a position as the Chief of Staff in the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office in Chicago.
His responsibilities include several aspects of the functionality of the office, including negotiating the budget used to run the second largest prosecutor’s office in the country, conducting legislative and intergovernmental affairs, training and recruiting attorneys, fostering community relations, and spearheading policy.
He worked in the State’s Attorney’s Office previously before leaving for a career change, accepting an appointment as the State Victim Advocate for Connecticut. At the time he left the State’s Attorney’s Office, he was supervising the Legislative Unit.
“I came back to the office because of my love for the office, the victims that we serve, and the colleagues that I work with,” Garvin says.
His tenure as Chief of Staff began in July 2014, but he has already positively affected his office’s budget.
“The biggest accomplishment thus far in my short time is the negotiation on the budget that prevented the anticipated loss of funding and personnel, while actually gaining an increase in both,” he says.
Before returning to Chicago, he also was appointed to serve as State Victim Advocate for Connecticut.
“The opportunity to serve as the State Victim Advocate for Connecticut, with the dedicated staff at the Office of the Victim Advocate and the public officials that I served with, will always be one of my proudest accomplishments,” Garvin says.
He says only 14 other states have a similar position, but none of the others have as rigorous standards as Connecticut’s. His responsibilities were to ensure that stakeholders in the criminal justice and legislative areas were adhering and being responsive to the constitutional and statutory rights of crime victims. He also served on numerous committees, commissions and boards that included discussions in which crime victims were an integral part.
The agency comprised of four staff members and many interns during his tenure.
“I decided to pursue that position because of my passion, and experience, of helping crime victims. This important position allowed me to focus solely on those victims and the systemic issues that may prevent them from healing or seeking justice,” he says.
During his tenure, Garvin helped bring about countless changes. One of his most memorable moments was when he partnered with the governor to create the first state-sponsored Victims’ Rights Enforcement Advisory Commission (VREAC). He served as the Chairman of that commission until his resignation in July of 2014.
He says that he created the commission to specifically mandate that all agency heads interacting with crime victims meet regularly to create specific recommendations for the enforcement of the constitutional and statutory rights of crime victims.
“Prior to this commission, there were no remedies on the books for violations of those rights,” Garvin says.
Garvin has met many of the goals he has set for himself. Though his goals frequently change, Garvin says he is working on new goals, including an end to child abuse.
“A life of service to individuals and groups has always driven me, and I hope to one day run an agency that works to eradicate child abuse in this world,” Garvin says.
Garvin was born on the island of Dominica in the Caribbean. He later moved to Toronto, Canada. From there, he received a track and field scholarship in 1998 to attend Southeast, and to concentrate on the High Jump event.
He graduated with a Bachelor of Science in criminal justice and a minor in criminology from Southeast in December 2001. He went on to earn a law degree from the Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Michigan, in 2005.
Attending Southeast, he says, helped influence his career choices.
“Southeast had a direct impact on my success in the field of criminal justice. My professors, especially Dr. John Wade, and then-professor Linda Keena, as well as my track coaches Joey Haines and Tim Rademaker, and teams allowed me to strive for the best and to always aim higher,” Garvin says.
He’s been married to his wife, Toya Renee Ambrose, since August 2007. His wife currently owns T.R.A. Choreography, LLC, and will be choreographing for Southeast’s dance team’s nationals routine this season.
To Southeast students, he offers some advice.
“I think the number one piece of advice would be to make sure to let people of authority know what you want. There is no use in simply existing in a company and going through the regular course of things if there are opportunities in that company for you to truly do what you are passionate about. That has been my secret to success thus far, and I hope it continues to hold true,” he says.