Editorial: Vern Pierson for district attorney
If you think of the race for El Dorado District Attorney as a public job interview with the voters as hiring managers, both incumbent Gary Lacy and challenger Vern Pierson can boast strong resumes. They are career prosecutors, and both understand El Dorado County and the challenges of law enforcement in rural districts. But when you look to the references part of the resumes, Pierson has an edge in terms of cops on the front line.
Pierson combines an understanding of county prosecution – he has served five years as Chief Assistant District Attorney in neighboring Amador County – with a global understanding of the law, picked up during his time as a prosecutor with the California Department of Justice and his participation in legislative efforts. And it means a lot that among his endorsements, Pierson counts the El Dorado deputy sheriff’s association, as well as the police officers associations from South Lake Tahoe and Placerville.
The district attorney is the most prominent law enforcement agent in the county, and these endorsements represent the opinions of many of the cops who work on the front line, and depend on a district attorney’s office for support.
That said, Lacy is not without his supporters. Among them, Sheriff Jeff Neves, Undersheriff Fred Kollar, as well as numerous other managers and employees in the law enforcement and legal communities. Many of his supporters are people with whom he has worked for decades, since starting as a prosecutor in the El Dorado County office, and then his election in 1994, and two subsequent re-elections to the top job.
A key issue in this race is staffing a district attorney’s office during a time of budget challenges.
Lacy has a record of progressive leadership, creating cutting edge programs to battle crime and train law enforcement as well as prosecutors and their support staff. But in El Dorado County workloads have increased at double digit rates in recent years, and the number of prosecutors and support staff has not kept up. This means more work, with less people to do it – a dangerous road to go down.
Lacy has said the flexibility of county budgets is difficult to control. Pierson says the district attorney needs to do more to invite not only an increase in funding from county coffers, but also to tap into other revenue from state and federal sources.
Perhaps a new approach to staffing in the district attorney offices may help provide some relief. Pierson has the right temperament to be effective in this regard, and appears to have the intellectual acumen and qualifications to lead day-to-day operations.