In the race for the 16th Circuit solicitor's post, we endorse Kevin Brackett.
Brackett, a Republican, was appointed solicitor in 2006 when former solicitor, Tommy Pope, left to enter private practice. Brackett is running for his first full four-year term as solicitor.
He is challenged by Democrat Phil Jamieson, 53, an attorney for the past seven years. Jamieson previously worked as a police officer and in other law enforcement jobs in Gastonia, N.C., and Morganton, N.C.
Brackett, 43, has spent nearly his entire career in the solicitor's office. He was hired soon out of law school as assistant solicitor from 1991 to 1995, then served as deputy solicitor from 1995 to 2006, when he was tapped to succeed Pope.
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When he was hired by former solicitor Larry Grant in 1991, the office had a backlog of 10,000 cases, some of them more than two years old. When Pope was hired in 1993, Brackett helped him significantly reduce the backlog and streamline the handling of cases.
We think Brackett's 16 years of experience in this office, particularly his service as deputy solicitor for 11 years, are an invaluable asset for the job. He has run an office of dozens of lawyers, investigators and support staff, handled a budget and overseen thousands of cases.
Jamieson's chief claim in challenging Brackett is that he would cut costs, especially money spent on perks such as in-house cars and cell phones, and work more closely with police agencies in the 16th Circuit, which covers York and Union counties. He claims that Brackett has increased staff and expenses while the caseload has decreased.
Brackett, however, cites figures showing that cases actually have increased in recent years. He notes, for example, that 4,400 warrants were taken out in the 2001-02 budget year, compared to 6,700 in 2007-08.
Brackett also makes the case that the $12,000 a year his office spends on cell phones is necessary to maintain communication among members of his office and investigators involved in cases. And the use of in-house cars is limited to those who must be available and prepared to travel 24 hours a day.
Ultimately, we think the numbers that count are those that indicate efficient handling of cases.
We also are impressed with Brackett's commitment to rehabilitating young offenders. That, he said, is how he would like to make his mark as solicitor.
Brackett claims that society does too little to keep kids from the wrong path. To that end, he recently set up an alternative school for expelled students. Previously, without adult supervision, these young people were left to their own devices, which often led to early drug and alcohol abuse, vandalism and more serious crimes.
The alternative school provides oversight and structure for the expelled students until they can return to high school or earn their GEDs. Young people who otherwise might end up in jail are more likely to join the workforce and become productive citizens.
Brackett is carrying on in Pope's footsteps while establishing a solid record of his own. We think he deserves to be elected to a full term.