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Paynesville Press - Oct. 27, 2010

Kandiyohi County Attorney
Jenna Fischer

Jenna Fischer is a partner at Jones & Fischer, P.A., in Willmar. She served as an assistant Kandiyohi County attorney for five years from 1995-1999. She won the three-way primary in August.

Why are you running for county attorney? I have two different motivations for seeking this office. One is altruistic, and one is personal. Altruistically, I am devoted to public and community service. I can think of no higher calling than that of public servant. I am most energized by my volunteer work and work for non-profits. This energy will benefit Kandiyohi County as I apply my enthusiasm full-time as Kandiyohi County attorney. On a personal level, I have always wanted to be a prosecutor. My practical experience began when I was still in law school working as a student attorney prosecutor for the cities of New Brighton and Arden Hills. To me, prosecution of crime is rewarding and exciting. The most important reason I seek this position is because it is a perfect fit for me, my skill set, and experience.

What fresh ideas would you bring to the county attorney's office? Efficiency is a high priority. While we simply can't reduce the budget when it comes to the prosecution of violent crime, we can find economies through a policy of consistency and even-handedness in charging and negotiating. Inconsistency and unfairness in charging brings out the most aggressive qualities in defense attorneys, which costs our county significant tax dollars. Delays in justice cost money and I would institute a no-continuance policy. Once a trial date is set to everyone's calendars, then the county attorney will aggressively pursue swift justice and will object to requests for continuances. Also, the county attorney must be willing to work with other elected and non-elected officials to eliminate duplication of services and to find solutions to problems that our agencies share. Better communication and assistance with other county and city agencies can result in cost savings to our county. There have been missed opportunities to assist law enforcement in the past. Even if it doesn't directly affect the county attorney's budget, the county attorney should always be willing to provide advice and assistance to other agencies. The financial health of the entire county should always be a priority.

How are you better qualified for this position than your opponent? My opponent has been in this position with absolutely no competition for 20 years. I bring a new vision that has been lacking. Plus, I received nearly 64 percent of the vote in the primary election, to my opponent's 22 percent, and it appears that the voters will accept a fresh perspective. I do have ample experience and a good reputation. I've worked for the judiciary as a law clerk from 1993-1995. As an assistant county attorney (1995-1999), I prosecuted all categories of crime. I've also spent the last 11 years as a defense and family law attorney, which taught me how to look at cases from all angles. Further, I've spent many years serving on the boards of local non-profits, including the Kandiyohi County Area Family YMCA, Willmar Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce and Rice Memorial Hospital., My well-rounded experience will serve Kandiyohi County well as I help resolve issues among agencies and within the criminal justice system. Being involved in the community is a very important factor as it helps one keep a healthy frame of reference.

What is your vision for Kandiyohi County? My goal is to work more collaboratively with law enforcement and other county agencies to create a more efficient and effective crime-fighting, crime-prosecuting unit. This can be achieved with a higher level of respect and communication with the stakeholders in the system. The incumbent has been doing "business as usual" for 20 years and does not seem to recognize that change is needed. Open discussion with county attorney staff lawyers, the sheriff's department, and the Willmar Police Department about what works and what doesn't will be primary on my agenda. I would like to see better coordination of efforts between agencies in order to find efficiencies in our budgets. One of the most common complaints that I've heard from law enforcement has been failure of the prosecution to include them in discussions regarding plea negotiations. When cops show up for a trial that has been settled, it costs their department unnecessary overtime. I would work with law enforcement to make sure we eliminate those expenses. I recognize that a particular criminal case is the culmination of many people's time, talent, and effort and negotiations for settlement will not take place without an opportunity for input. As far as criminal prosecutions, I intend to use a common sense approach to charging crimes and to be a "Minister of Justice." I understand the balance between the rights of property owners to defend their property and the need to maintain public safety. In a county of nearly 900 square miles, property owners must be given reasonable leeway to defend their property while waiting for the arrival of law enforcement.

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