She may hold just one title, but since late last year, Heather M. Wier Vaught handles three major responsibilities at the Capitol.
As chief counsel to Illinois House Speaker Michael J. Madigan, she reviews every piece of legislation filed in the House.
She also serves as House parliamentarian, ruling on procedural issues and inquiries. Additionally, she functions as ethics officer for the Democratic caucus, ensuring improper behavior doesn't occur.
Balancing three hats keeps her so busy, she said, she finds it difficult to determine the amount of time devoted to each.
"I try to give 100 percent to all of them," she said, "which is why I work seven days a week."
Of all the roles Vaught filled since coming to the Capitol in 2006, however, she may be best known for her time as assistant House prosecutor during former Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich's impeachment trial in the Senate.
Preparing and handling the 2009 case — which resulted in Blagojevich's removal from office for abuses that included attempting to sell an appointment to now-President Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat — can only be described as difficult, Vaught said.
As the state dealt with fallout from that major crisis, she and her colleagues prepared for a process never seen before in the legislature.
"You feel the seriousness," Vaught said. "You know how serious this is."
The uniqueness of the situation required studying impeachment trials from other states, she said, as well as deep dives into transcripts from the Illinois constitutional convention.
The combination of a major state scandal and a man's very public downfall, though, brought a somber feeling to the entire experience, Vaught said.
"Impeachment is something that should be used as a last resort," she said.
"It's not something that should be fun. It's difficult for the state to go through."
Despite the historic pressure of the situation, Vaught's colleagues said she never cracked and worked relentlessly to ensure the case proceeded smoothly.
David W. Ellis, who served as Madigan's chief counsel from 2006 to 2011 and led the Blagojevich impeachment prosecution, said the "indispensable" Vaught remained upbeat under stress.
Vaught coordinated every lawyer working on the case, he said, and ensured each issue received sufficient attention.
"You don't even have to ask her to do those things. She just does them," Ellis said. "All I ever had to say to Heather was four words, 'Take care of this.'"
Michael J. Kasper, a partner at Fletcher, O'Brien, Kasper & Nottage P.C. and former legal counsel to Madigan, also served as an assistant House prosecutor in the impeachment proceedings.
Vaught's ability to keep all the factual allegations in order proved essential to the case, he said.
Kasper said in a joking manner that he and Ellis received credit for most of the work Vaught did, making her an unsung hero of the impeachment process.
"Someone had to keep everything organized," he said. "She did that fantastically. It was sort of a thankless job."
Vaught, though, said she only accidentally arrived on the path that brought her to Springfield.
A law enforcement major in college, Vaught spent five years as the communications director for the American Bar Association's president's office.
She decided to pursue law school only after receiving encouragement from several women she met there, including former President Martha Barnett.
Intrigued by public interest law, she said, someone soon suggested she find a way to the capital to see policy development in action. Vaught applied for a spot in Madigan's office, landing a six-month contract on the technical review staff. Soon after Ellis came on board as chief counsel, he appointed her as his deputy.
Vaught took on tremendous responsibilities in that position, Ellis said, becoming an expert on ethics and other perennially controversial issues. She even handled some legislative negotiations solo, he said.
"She transformed the job," Ellis said. "She did things with that job that no one has ever done."
Whether as deputy or chief counsel, Vaught said, her work never stops.
Long nights and weekends at the Capitol prevent her from seeing family or friends much, she said, leading her to frequently assure loved ones that "I swear I'm doing something good."
But working for Madigan means living up to expectations, she said, because the speaker sets a high standard.
"No matter how much I work," she said, "I'm never outworking the boss."
Vaught said she devoted little time, however, to tracking Blagojevich's legal proceedings after the impeachment trial ended.
She paid almost no attention to his criminal trial, though did briefly tune in to the hearing where the former governor received a 14-year prison sentence.
The impeachment ended a frustrating time, she said, a period that began a lawsuit the governor filed against Madigan, claiming the speaker tried to erode Blagojevich's constitutional powers.
At a certain point, Vaught said, she became ready to close that chapter of her career.
"We were constantly trying to defend this office," she said. "After he was impeached, to me, the harm was done. He could do no more harm."