Nancy Workman is no longer afraid to pick up a newspaper and see her face adorning the front page. She doesn't get nervous to go out in public anymore, and she is even mustering the courage to jump back into politics.
The former Salt Lake County mayor says she is finally healing, more than a year after she was charged with two counts of felony misuse of public money. Workman was acquitted on all charges in February.
"We can all go through it saying 'that's not fair,' but you just shake it off and keep going," Workman said. "I feel good now. I was just obsessed with the trial for so long. I feel vindicated."
But Workman wasn't so sure her acquittal would translate to general acceptance by area residents and former political friends. Although she was found not guilty on charges of improperly using county funds to pay for two employees at the Boys and Girls Club, Workman said it took several months to stop worrying what people thought of her.
"You think everybody is looking at you and calling you a crook," Workman said of the first few weeks after her trial. "They had a chance to be really nasty, but everyone comes up and says, 'We were behind you.' "
The intensity of the trial also took a while to wear off, Workman said. For several months, she focused on her family and relaxation instead of trying to get right back in the job market.
Greg Skordas, Workman's attorney, said the trial burdened the former mayor more than she showed with the perpetual smile she wore in court, in her booking mug photograph and on camera. The only time Workman cried in public was after the not guilty verdict came in.
"When the jury verdict came back and she was acquitted, I finally met the real woman. She's just so nice and she's so fun," Skordas said. "It really made me realize how hard this was on her, how difficult it was to be accused of something in such a public light and in really such a nasty way."
Now that the cameras are no longer pointed at her, Workman said she's ready to move past the seven months of investigations, media swarms and mug shots. In fact, the 64-year-old Sandy resident is trying to get back into the contracting business, reconnecting with past clients and partners from her previous work as a road construction contractor.
But the road back to normalcy hasn't been easy, Workman added. While she spent the past 10 years being a politician, the job market has changed and she has neared retirement age.
"I'm just trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up," Workman said. "This world belongs to the young people, and it's a fast world. But I like it. I still want to play. I still have to; I have to make a living."
Workman is also looking to get back on the political scene as a consultant for government groups and wants to be part of the ongoing conversation about health care and Utah. Workman particularly wants to get involved in discussions in the upcoming legislative session on whether Intermountain Health Care has too much control of the state's medical market.
But Workman said she doesn't have any goals to run for office again, even though she gets fired up about county politics when she gets her annual property tax notice.
"It was fun. It was exhilarating. It was high pressure. It was intense. I miss it. I guess I'm sick," she said.
Workman also doesn't regret opting out of the candidate race against current Mayor Peter Corroon, although she believes the district attorney's office robbed her of any chance to run. Workman stepped out of the race in October, saying the trial was taking a toll on her health.
"The decision came down to you can only do so much; you can't run a campaign and a defense," she said. "Pretty soon it just started to crack and crumble."
As for her one-time competitor Corroon, Workman said she sympathizes with the scandals that have surfaced since his inauguration in January, including personnel problems and overtime abuses. Workman said she applauds Corroon's efforts to curb those violations with new ethics policies and tighter fiscal controls.
"I take responsibility. I didn't get it all done in my administration. Some of it I didn't even know about," she said.
And Workman's battles with the county are not yet over. She is still fighting with county attorneys to get reimbursed for the $195,000 spent on legal fees throughout the trial. Workman already took out a second mortgage on her home to pay $65,000 out of pocket,
Salt Lake County generally pays those fees for anyone that has been prosecuted by the county and is found innocent, Skordas said. The district's attorney's office has not yet offered to post the entire amount.
"The district attorney has never drug anybody through this like this. It's just different with me," she said. "I expect them to fight me every step of the way."
Although Workman said the fees have left her strapped financially, the real significance is that getting the fees repaid will be the final admission that she was innocent. Not paying up, she said, insinuates that she was not completely cleared of the felony charges.
"The money doesn't mean as much to me as my name," she said. "Integrity, your name, your word, your handshake is everything to you."