Mia McLeod was fighting to reduce domestic violence long before she landed in the legislature. After graduating law school in 1995, McLeod, a native of Bennettsville, S.C., became the director of the state attorney general’s Violence Against Women Act project. There, she helped strengthen enforcement efforts, developed protocols and encouraged prosecutors to take the initiative instead of waiting for victims to press charges. For a time, those efforts helped curb domestic violence cases. In recent years, however, those numbers have picked up again. McLeod has redoubled her efforts, holding town hall meetings and bringing attention to the efforts she undertook a decade ago. “There’s a whole cycle of violence taking place before a woman is murdered, and that’s where we’re falling short,” she says.
After her time in the attorney general’s office, McLeod took on other criminal justice roles within state government; in 2003, she started her own lobbying and public affairs firm. Before long, however, she felt a pull back to the public sector. In 2010, she was elected to the state legislature, representing the Columbia area. She has developed a reputation as a sharp and outspoken lawmaker in the areas of health, education and domestic violence.