April 12, 2001 11:00 pm

By T.L. Petersen

Observer Staff Writer

Many people work at their

jobs day by day without much recognition.

Union County District Attorney Russ West changed that for two members of his staff this week, honoring Deputy District Attorney Steve Cordill and victims and witnesses assistance director Jan Hallgarth for their efforts on behalf of crime victims.

Part of our mission statement for our office says that we will give each team member credit for their distinctive contributions, West said.

He chose to recognize Cordill and Hallgarth in front of their co-workers and family members Wednesday morning during a ceremony at Shelter From the Storm.

Cordill received his award in large part because of his work with the Mount Emily Safe Center, which provides a safe place for investigative, medical and legal interviews with child victims of sexual or physical assault and information for their families.

He worked to organize it, West said. His knowledge from private practice was very useful in writing the bylaws to enable the center to become a private non-profit corporation. He continues to serve on the board and is doing an excellent job. I trust his judgment in working with (the staff) to guide the safe center in the right direction.

Sheriff Steve Oliver added that Cordill, besides being a county prosecutor and member of the safe centers board, also is a sworn Union County deputy.

West and Oliver had plenty of praise for Hallgarth, who has worked in the district attorneys office since 1989.

Her work ethic and attitude of cooperation have been an important asset to the office, West said.

Hallgarth has served as a legal secretary, worked with child support enforcement and been the director of the victims and witnesses assistance section since 1998.

Two of Hallgarths major accomplishments were given special note.

In 1997, she and Rita Lanman started the victims impact panel, an educational forum for convicted drunk drivers.

Maybe its just a coincidence, maybe not, but our DUII arrests have gone down since 1997 and no one has been killed by a drunk driver since then, West said. Hallgarth has organized more than 10 of the forums since they started.

Her other major accomplishment, West said, was her active role in obtaining the funding and setting up the Mount Emily Safe Center.

Until a grant was received to hire a full-time director for the center in 1999, Hallgarth handled the directors duties herself.

She works hard every day and doesnt talk about it, West said.

Oliver echoed the sentiment, noting she doesnt blow her own horn. Looking at Hallgarth, he added that you do it, and do a fantastic amount of work, too.

Oliver credited Hallgarth with one additional miracle that drew laughs from those at the ceremony.

Referring to his initial reluctance to support the safe center concept for working with victims of child abuse, Oliver credited Hallgarth with changing his mind and sometimes twisting my arms and attitude.

You were the catalyst between Russ (West) and me and got me pulled into it.

The ceremony Tuesday was an early highlight for local law enforcement, legal, and social services communities in the county that will recognize the national Crime Victims Week April 22-28.