OREGON DISTRICT ATTORNEYS
LANE COUNTY DISTRICT ATTORNEY
WHY DID YOU BECOME A PROSECUTOR?
I was clerking for a judge right out of law school. I had no intention of going into criminal law, but after just a few months of watching hearings and trials, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. The deputy DA’s were so passionate about their work and being the voice for victims of crime. It was exciting to me to watch them and even more exciting when a senior DDA asked me if I’d be interested in applying. My clerkship was supposed to last a year, but I joined the Lane County DA’s office in January of 1990 when my judge allowed me to leave with seven months left of my clerkship. I’ve been here ever since.
I had no intention of being the elected DA. But my predecessor left in the middle of his term and my office needed stability and leadership. From the Chief Deputy position, I stepped up and went through first, a contested appointment process and then, a contested election. I haven’t regretted my decision.
WHAT IS THE MOST REWARDING PART OF YOUR WORK?
My work now is very different than my work was as a line prosecutor. As a line prosecutor, the most rewarding part of my work was holding people accountable for the crimes they committed in my community. Having a judge tell a young girl how brave she was to face her abuser at sentencing after a really difficult trial was one of the most rewarding moments of my career.
Now, my role is very different. One of the most rewarding parts of my job is attending treatment court graduations. Seeing people at the end of the journey from the lowest point in their lives to being clean and sober, having their kids back, working full time or going to school. Another great thing I get to do in this position is work with other community leaders to try to solve the bigger picture problems. My county is very under-resourced, but we’ve gone from saying what we can’t do to what we can with what we have.
WHAT IS THE HARDEST PART OF YOUR WORK?
One of the reasons I didn’t aspire to be the elected DA is that I’m not politically savvy. Dealing with the political battles at every level is most difficult for me. I’ve always been someone who, if I saw a need, I’d find a solution. Now, every time I see a need, I have to get buy-in from lots of other people. And my own legislators don’t contact me for input on bills they’re voting on that affect public safety.
WHAT DO YOU WANT PEOPLE TO KNOW ABOUT YOU AND THE WORK YOU DO?
I’ve lived in Oregon all of my life and in Lane County for 37 years. My purpose in this work is to make my community safer and healthier. That means accountability for people who commit crimes here, but working as a public safety system to find ways to prevent them from future criminal activity
WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE THE COMMUNITY TO BETTER UNDERSTAND ABOUT THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM?
The criminal justice system is just one component of public safety. But it is critical to the preservation of our communities to hold people accountable for the crimes they commit and provide justice for victims of crime.
DO YOU HAVE VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES IN WHICH YOU PARTICIPATE?
I serve on the boards of the Relief Nursery and Kids FIRST. The Relief Nursery provides services to at risk families and children. Kids FIRST is the child abuse intervention center for the Lane County area. I don’t want to be a name-only board member, so I work very hard for those two organizations.
WHAT WORK OF YOUR OFFICE MAKES YOU THE MOST PROUD?
The people who work beside me. They are all committed to the mission of making our community a safer, healthier place. The child support enforcement office collects over $20 million per year for Lane County kids. Our victim advocates help people through their most difficult times. I enjoy hearing the enthusiasm of the prosecutors and support staff in the criminal division as they successfully work through various challenges to get a case to trial. The compassion the medical-legal death investigators give to grieving families and the professionalism in their work is unsurpassed. The thank you letters my staff receives make me very proud. I’m grateful for this work every day.
Diversion Programs and/or Alternative Sentencing Programs and community engagement programs.
Our treatment courts are the flagship of the county. We have a drug court that serves high-risk offenders, some on a conditional discharge and some on a probation sentence that keeps them out of prison with successful completion. We have a veterans’ court that addresses the very different needs of military people who have deployed. We have a mental health court for chronically mentally ill people who are committing crimes in the community but are either fit to proceed or have been restored to fitness. Housing is our greatest challenge and our greatest indicator of success when we can provide it.
We have a diversion program for high-risk property offenders who would normally be sentenced to prison. The program provides intensive supervision and treatment, mentorship, job skills and housing.
We have a diversion program for low-risk property offenders that is based on alternative dispute resolution and restorative justice.
Lane County is uniquely situated now with great partnerships between my office, our re-entry program, the Court, the Sheriff’s office, treatment, and parole and probation. It wasn’t always like that here.