Union County District Attorney Kelsie McDaniel said she is not done representing the county, as she asks voters to reelect her in May.
McDaniel has served as the county’s DA since 2014. She said she began working at prosecutors’ offices as a teenager, wanting to get as much experience with securing justice for victims as possible.
“I wanted to get firsthand experience,” she said. “I started getting that great experience at 19 years old.”
McDaniel said she has never been a defense attorney, but she found her calling as a prosecutor.
“Our job, as prosecutors, is to seek justice,” she said.
She said she considers it an honor to be the Union County District Attorney.
The number of people who have been sent to prison has increased dramatically since she stepped into the position. McDaniel said 15 percent more people are being convicted, and 30 percent more are going to prison for property and drug offenses.
“We’re tough on repeat offenders and those who take advantage of our most vulnerable citizens — children, families and the elderly,” McDaniel said.
McDaniel has strengthened the victim services program to assist victims as they go through the court system. She has also organized a wardrobe for those who need to appear in court but do not have the clothing suitable for the courtroom’s strictly enforced dress code. The DA is also about to launch a restitution pilot program that will help
victims receive payments faster and in greater amounts than the small chunks of money the payer can give the victim at the time.
The size of the Union County Jail has also been a frustration for her and it is something she’s been trying to change.
“I’ve been working with (Union County Sheriff) Boyd Rasmussen on that,” she said.
McDaniel said her office has contributed to a jail analysis report and she makes sure the community sees what challenges law enforcement and the District Attorney’s office face because of the small jail.
The law requires that the jail facility is inspected by a grand jury once a year, McDaniel said. When she became the District Attorney, she began taking the members of every grand jury on a jail tour.
“I take the grand jury through a jail tour with Union County Sheriff’s Office staff,” McDaniel said in an email. “At the end of the tour, the group fills out a report (that is) submitted to the circuit court judges, the sheriff and jail staff and the Union County Commissioners. This is a project that I have taken on to expose more community members to the challenges we face with respect to our limited and antiquated jail, and to keep the issue on the forefront with our elected officials and stakeholders.”
It’s important to have a team effort mindset, McDaniel said, when working on cases or helping other agencies in the county.
“A good portion of my job is working with the different agencies to find solutions,” McDaniel said.
She will get phone calls from law enforcement asking questions about what their rights are in a particular situation.
“I have been a prosecutor for a long time before becoming a DA,” she said. “People know they can count on me and trust me. They have seen my integrity.”
With that, McDaniel, who filed for reelection on the first day elections were opened, said she’s just getting started.
“(The DA’s office) is a public servant position,” she said. “When I was sworn in as District Attorney four years ago, I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. This is not something I take lightly. I have dedicated my life to the rule of law and believe the Constitution, in its current form, to be an unimpeachable document.”