Heather Adams, Lancaster County's district attorney-elect and the first woman in the county's history to hold the role, will take office on Jan.6.
She sat down with LNP to discuss what she has been doing to prepare and what her priorities will be.
What have you been doing to prepare for the new role?
Adams has been having "lots of meetings" with judges, district attorney staff, county officials and others to learn how the office functions day-to-day and where there is room for improvement.
"I'm trying to cover the gamut of everything I need so that I'm informed day one," she said. "It's been positive. I feel like every time I have a meeting I come out of the meeting and I feel a little bit better, more informed."
Adams said she wants to focus her administration on team building, leadership and mentorship to have the most efficient office moving forward.
"It's exciting in that everyone I meet with is excited for change. I think my predecessor has set up a very solid foundation for me to be moving forward, but there's room to make improvement. There's always room for improvement."
You'll be down a few attorneys when you take office, four precisely. How will you attract and retain good lawyers?
Adams campaigned, in part, on implementing a more formal training program for new attorneys. That program, she said, will essentially be a checklist of things they have to do with periodic reviews over a period of 3-6 months.
It will cover basics like how to access the courthouse on weekends, who are the people in the county government they need to know and dealing with human resources issues. New assistant district attorneys will also be trained in practical skills like managing and prosecuting a case.
"They are going to have a much better solid foundation to build on and from there it is going to be the mentorship that continues as they grow," she said.
She will also encourage a policy to make sure all new attorneys are not alone during their first few trials.
"I think that is key. That's how I learned."
Lancaster County has been a leader in prosecuting drug delivery resulting in death cases. What do you see as the role of that charge in fighting the opioid crisis?
While Adams said she is aware of the criticism of the volume of these types of cases pursued in Lancaster County, she doesn't necessarily agree with the criticism.
"I think that pursuing those charges against the dealers makes it clearly known that they're not going to get away with it," she said. "I think it should be known that if they are selling drugs that results in a death of somebody else that they are going to be arrested and prosecuted here in Lancaster County."
Prosecuting these cases treats drug overdoses as less of a "sad inevitability" and treats the victims with more respect, she said, but she does draw a distinction between friends sharing drugs and a dealer running a for-profit enterprise.
Your predecessor sued the county commissioner last year, and while you have said you will not continue the suit, what will you do about the bill for the District Attorney's office's representation?
Adams said she is unsure of what will happen with the bill for Kleinbard LLC's representation of outgoing District Attorney Craig Stedman, but certainly doesn't want it to burden her office moving forward.
"I would certainly let the commissioners know and see how they think I should deal with it," Adams said. "There's a lot of unanswered questions I have about that as well, as far as would the district attorney's office under my administration be expected to pay that?"
Matt Haverstick, of Kleinbard LLC, has not responded to multiple inquires about the bill.
There's been a focus in recent years of reducing the Lancaster County Prison population. Will you continue those efforts?
"In my meeting with the chief of probation, we spoke about that because many of the people at LCP are waiting or serving predisposition of some sort, and many of those are (parole violations)," she said. "One of the things I asked him about was a pretrial supervision program which is more similar to what York County."'
In York, pretrial supervision is handled by probation officers, for those eligible, rather than by bail administration as in Lancaster County. Participants are expected to participate in counseling, possibly find employment and remain on good behavior.
"So it's saving the cost of incarcerating that person because they've now had the chance to be out and prove that they can be crime free and drug free," she said. "Some changes would need to be made here in Lancaster County for that to be put in place, but it's certainly a program I, as district attorney, would be in support of."
You will now serve on the body that makes decisions about the prison. Do you believe the county is in need of a new facility?
"I think it is time," Adams said. "There are a number of different issues that need to be addressed but ultimately I think it comes down to safety. Not only for the guards but for the inmates. I think that facility has just run its course, it's a little outdated. Others will have to make this decision but at some point how much money do you put into that facility knowing that it can't ever be up to what it needs to be."