New city attorney takes full-service approach

·3 min read

May 27—HIGH POINT — New City Attorney Meghan Maguire had something of a head start on the job when she was named High Point's chief legal counsel earlier this month.

She's been an integral part of the city's legal team since early 2019, filling roles as assistant, deputy and interim city attorney.

"The way I look at the city attorney's office is, we're basically a small law firm within the city of High Point — it's whatever the client needs," Maguire said.

She was hired by the City Council after a competitive, nationwide search to find the replacement for JoAnne Carlyle, who retired as city attorney at the end of 2022 after holding the job for 10 years.

As Maguire describes it, her "number one client" is her boss — the council — and a major part of her job is advising them on procedural matters during meetings and on topics that are allowed by law to be handled in closed sessions.

She and her office also provide advice and counsel to city staff throughout the organization, whether it's the management team or within any of the 19 city departments.

This can involve a torrent of day-to-day work, she said, as well as long-term projects, like implementing the city's new branding strategy.

She'll also work with the council on the final report in September of the One High Point Commission, which is studying the issue of slavery reparations.

"They will create their report, and the city will review the findings," Maguire said. "The council will decide where to go from there, and we will help them understand what is (legally) permissible."

After graduating from Wake Forest University with a bachelor of arts degree, Maguire earned her law degree from Stetson University and a master of laws from American University's Washington College of Law.

She began her career as in-house counsel for Allegacy Federal Credit Union in Winston-Salem.

She then worked for Winston-Salem law firm Blanco Tackaberry, representing businesses across a variety of practice areas, including contracts, regulatory compliance, commercial real estate, environmental law and intellectual property.

Having worked while in law school for both the city of Tampa, Florida and the city of Winston-Salem, Maguire said she came to realize this type of work was her true calling.

"I think it's really interesting to be the attorney for the town you live in, and I always had an eye to return to municipal law," she recalled.

She got the opportunity when Carlyle hired and eventually promoted her to deputy city attorney.

Maguire is one of two attorneys on staff for the city, along with Assistant City Attorney Kate Ashburn.

While she's looking to grow the office, Maguire said the city will continue to hire private attorneys to handle some types of cases.

"Any size city — no matter how big or small — will always engage outside counsel for specific matters," she said. "A lot of times, it's a big project. It could be for litigation that's going to take a lot of time and energy, or perhaps for personnel matters."

Her department is budgeted for two more assistant attorney positions, which she plans to fill.