Oak Creek attorney Kashoua “Kristy” Yang defeated municipal judge Scott Wales for the open seat Milwaukee County Brach 47, breaking a series of barriers: Yang is the first Hmong judge in Wisconsin history, the first Hmong woman judge in the United States, and only the second Hmong judge in American history.

“I don’t know that I was confident,” she told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “but I knew what I had to do  — reach out to voters — and I felt good about what I was doing.”

Yang, 36, brought mostly family court mediation and Social Security disability law experience, along with an inspiring backstory: arriving as a refugee at the age of six, she daydreamed about law school but never felt empowered to pursue it until her brother was in a car accident and she found herself feeling “powerless.”

“If you’ve ever been through a situation where you feel so vulnerable and that your future is in the hands of other people, it really motivates you. Once you’ve had an opportunity to appreciate that and feel it in your fiber, it really motivates you to do things that maybe at one time you didn’t think you were capable of doing. That’s the reason I continue to do the work I do representing individuals and affecting the daily lives of people,” Yang said in an interview with Madison365 in March.

Yang studied computer science at Lakeland College, then worked six years in customer service and supply chain logistics at Kohler before going to law school at the University of Wisconsin. She graduated from law school in 2009.