ATF Celebrates Women’s History Month: Mary Suettinger

Mary SuettingerMary Suettinger is an associate chief counsel for ATF’s Office of the Chief Counsel at Headquarters. She has been with ATF for 23 years, having spent her first 2 years in the Firearms, Explosives, and Arson Section of the Chief Counsel’s office. She then moved to the Los Angeles Field Division for 8 years and has been back at Headquarters for the past 13 years in the General Law and Information Division.

Suettinger came from a family where education is highly valued. She decided to follow in the footsteps of her father and become a lawyer. When asked about how she wound up at ATF, she said, “I’m not sure there are many people who go to law school thinking they want to do ‘firearms law’ or that it’s even an option, but after spending a summer at ATF as a legal intern during law school, I fell in love with public service and the people of ATF. The mission of combatting gun violence and making communities safer at a small law enforcement agency has kept me here for almost a quarter century.”

Maintaining a Work-Life Balance

Suettinger’s work-life challenges have changed over the years. “When I started with ATF I had just taken the bar exam, and now I have four kids!” she said. “My husband and I have created a life in which we have the amazing gift where one of us can be available for the kids, while at the same time supporting our family. The work-life balance of ATF and more specifically, the Counsel’s office, has allowed us to meet those goals for our family. I’ve learned that while the mission of the Bureau is important, nothing is more important than my family, and I work very hard to make sure I give my all to both.”

Importance of Diverse Voices in Law Enforcement

As far as diversity, Suettinger believes it’s important for women to join the federal workforce, particularly in a law enforcement agency, because women represent more than half the population.  “You cannot have a thoughtful workforce unless all sides are represented,” she said. “Joining federal service sends a message of representation to those who feel underrepresented.”

Suettinger goes on to say that critical thinking is the most important aspect of any decision making. “It is important to have diverse voices contribute to law enforcement technologies, innovations, policies and programs because without different perspectives and ideas, you cannot make a well-rounded decision affecting these important programs. A decision based solely on one mindset is short sighted, so the importance of having all sides of a conversation represented is paramount,” she said.

Suettinger’s advice for women seeking to join ATF is that “there are opportunities and resources available to mold your career and support your life choices. The mission of the agency is important both as a citizen and an employee, and it takes a lot of people doing the right thing to support that mission,” said Suettinger.

Reflecting on Women’s History Month

“Women’s History Month is important to me because it is important to shed light on the historical and ongoing contributions and impact that women have had on this country,” said Suettinger. “Personally, I have a 9-year-old daughter and want her to know that all opportunities are available to her, that she has strong, capable women in her life as role models, and that she has the ability to do whatever she puts her mind to.” She added, “Seeing examples of successful and impactful women throughout the month is a sign of representation and a welcome reminder of all that women offer, not only to ATF but also to society in general.”

Last Reviewed March 15, 2024