Doing what she loves, loving what she does

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Community service is an integral part of life for Outstanding Citizen

By Stephen Lega

Marion County Attorney Joe Mattingly has known Lisa Nally-Martin since they were children, and he’s worked alongside her for close to 20 years.
He can’t think of anyone more deserving of receiving this year’s Marion County Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Citizen Award.
“It’s unique for someone to be able to take in stride what some people would consider obstacles and turn them into opportunities,” Mattingly said.
One example of that is raising a child with autism. Instead of spending time trying to figure out what may have caused it, Nally-Martin has focused on exposing Evan, 15, to a variety of experiences to make his life everything it can be.
In turn, that compelled her to start the Working the Puzzle for Autism Walk, a local event that raises money and provides information to assist families that have children with autism while also raising awareness about autism throughout the community. The fourth annual autism walk will take place April 12 at Graham Memorial Park.
Melissa Knight serves on the board that oversees the autism walk, and she said Nally-Martin has almost single-handedly raised money for research and other activities to improve the lives of children and families living with autism spectrum disorders.
“Lisa is an inspiration for me personally because she lives out every day what her faith calls her to do — she puts others first. It is never about her; it is about helping others and doing the right thing whether that is for her children or someone she barely knows,” Knight wrote in an email.
She added the Nally-Martin is determined to succeed, but remains humble when she does.
Nally-Martin, 47, is the oldest of Dickie and Barbara Nally’s children. Growing up in Loretto, she worked on the farm, which meant doing plenty of chores, including stripping tobacco. She also remembers as a family they volunteered at the St. Francis Picnic every year. Even so, she and her siblings had to earn any money they wanted to spend at the picnic.
“Me and my brother would pick blackberries and pick up aluminum cans for extra money to spend there,” Nally-Martin said.
She credits her parents for instilling a good work ethic in her.
She attended St. Francis School and St. Charles Middle School before graduating from high school in 1985.
“I was one of those girls who left Marion County High School and said I’d never come back,” Nally-Martin said. “It’s not so bad being back, though.”
She went on to complete her college education at Bellarmine College (now Bellarmine University) and to earn her law degree at the University of Louisville.
Despite her intentions after high school, she returned to central Kentucky to practice law after contacting Ed O’Daniel about a job.
“I was the first female attorney in Springfield,” Nally-Martin said. “People would come in and say, ‘I want to speak to that lady lawyer.’ It was funny.”
In Springfield, she joined the Business and Professional Women and the chamber of commerce.
“I feel like as an attorney, you need to be involved in the community, not only to get to know people, but I feel like that’s part of our profession, that we should give back to the community,” Nally-Martin said. “It’s something I’ve always enjoyed doing.”
She later became president of both organizations simultaneously, but that wasn’t the biggest thing that happened to her at that time.
“That was the year I was pregnant with Evan. After I had him, that kind of slowed me down some,” Nally-Martin said.
Nally-Martin later moved back to Marion County, where she has served as the assistant county attorney since 1996.
She also gave birth to her second son, Cameron, now 11.
Having children was just another opportunity for Nally-Martin to be active in the community. She served on the Lebanon Elementary School Site-Based Decision Making Council for a few years until she had to step down when Mattingly, her business partner, became the attorney for the Marion County Board of Education. She still remains active as the president of the LES Parent Teacher Organization and by serving on the special education monitoring team for the school district.
“I just like being involved, knowing what’s going on and trying to help out,” Nally-Martin said.
Evan was diagnosed with autism when he was 6 or 7 years old, but Nally-Martin said she’d done enough research to suspect his condition before it was confirmed. Prior to his formal diagnosis, Evan was considered developmentally delayed, Nally-Martin said.
She said he started therapy three days a week when he was 9 months old. He didn’t walk until he was 26 months old and he didn’t talk even a little until he was about 6 or 7, she said.
“My issue was trying to find out what was out there to help him. Not so much trying to waste time on what was the cause of it, because in a larger percentage of them, you don’t know the cause. My focus was on trying to get him better, getting him up to par,” Nally-Martin said.
She said she was fortunate to meet a consultant in Louisville years ago who suggested therapies for him and the schools were open to providing some of those therapies.
Nally-Martin said she’s made time to take Evan to horse and speech therapies and worked with him at home. She’s also tried to expose him to as many opportunities as possible, including taking him to a variety of community events. She said she thinks many parents make the mistake of thinking their children can’t do something because of their disabilities.
“There have been many, many times I’ve been embarrassed if he had a fit or had a meltdown because he had a sensory overload,” Nally-Martin said. “But I’ve learned pride can be a bad thing.”
While she has done what she can to address Evan’s special needs, Nally-Martin has also tried to not deprive Cameron of opportunities. Cameron plays baseball, basketball and soccer.
While she didn’t play sports herself, she does see benefits for her youngest child.
“I want him to know that commitment, that once you’re there, you’re a team player,” Nally-Martin said.
That’s all in addition to her work as assistant county attorney, in which she deals with a lot of difficult people and difficult situations, according to Mattingly. Despite that, she hasn’t become jaded, he said. (In fact, she’s running unopposed to become the county attorney this year.)
Mattingly continued to say that Nally-Martin has a wonderful attitude about life and that’s reflected in how she treats others.
“The way she deals with Evan is just an extension of the concern and the caring she shows to everybody,” Mattingly said.
On the night of the chamber awards dinner, Nally-Martin said she was trying to gather her emotions as she realized Knight was describing her in her introduction of the outstanding citizen. She was so focused in fact that one of her friends had to point out that her family, including her 90-year-old grandmother, had gathered on the other side of the room to watch her get the award.
“It was a little overwhelming to look over there and see that large group,” Nally-Martin said.
She added that she doesn’t do the things she does to get awards, but she was touched to be recognized for the things she enjoys doing.
“I love community service,” Nally-Martin said. “If I had more time, I’d do a lot more of it. It’s just there’s only 24 hours in the day. You got to sleep sometime.”