Meet Olmsted County Attorney Candidate Geoffrey A. Hjerleid
I am a native of Decorah, Iowa, graduated from Luther College and the University of Iowa Law School, and I have lived and practiced law in Rochester and Olmsted County for going on 30 years.
I have served Olmsted County as an assistant county attorney for over 22 years. I am the Lead Attorney of the Criminal Division, where I supervise and manage the operations of our criminal prosecutors. For the previous 15 years I served as the primary attorney advising and representing Olmsted County social services in providing services to abused and neglected children and their families, vulnerable adults, those suffering from mental illness and chemical dependency. I have been very fortunate to have served on the boards of community organizations, including Legal Assistance of Olmsted County, ADAPTA (pka Wing House), The Community Youth Mentorship Program, and the Olmsted County Bar Association.
I have been appointed by the Minnesota Supreme Court to three statewide commissions charged with improving the legal profession and judicial system, and providing greater access to our courts: The Minnesota Board of Continuing Legal Education; The Gender Fairness Implementation Committee, and The Committee for Equality and Justice. I currently serve on the Third Judicial District Equality and Justice Committee which serves all southeastern Minnesota.
My wife and I raised our now young adult children just outside Byron on our little slice of country heaven, where we have a few too many four-legged friends. This fall we became empty nesters when all three of our kids started college.
Your key platforms:
As the Olmsted County Attorney, I will ensure that the office is dedicated to effective and efficient use of the office to help solve our problems by:
- Improving our prosecution response of DOMESTIC VIOLENCE by implementing research-based best practices to assess the risk of reoffending, hold offenders accountable, and keeping victims and their families safe.
Domestic violence is not only a public safety issue, but it is also a public health issue. We estimate that 25% of all criminal cases in our office are domestic violence related. The current policy has a baseline goal of NOT obtaining convictions. This policy is inconsistent with the intent of our laws, contrary to well-established research into domestic violence, and, in the end, has not held offenders accountable, nor does it protect victims and their families. This must change.
- Enhancing our justice system response to LOW-LEVEL DRUG OFFENDERS by reducing incarceration rates and providing greater access to chemical dependency services.
Low-level drug offenders, non-violent “users,” of illegal drugs are a constant in our judicial system. Their addiction not only destroys their lives, but strains our law enforcement agencies, the court system, and our detention center. We must improve our overall response by increasing access to treatment to prevent chronic reoffending.
- Implementing BEST PRACTICES to provide specific community members in need greater access to the courts, including veterans, vulnerable adults, those suffering from mental illness, and our at-risk communities.
As stewards of the public’s trust and resources, it is incumbent on public officials to use the most efficient process and practice to deliver services to those we serve. By implementing best practices in all areas. we can provide all the residents of our community with greater access to services in all of our courts.
Why should Olmsted County vote for you?
The people of Olmsted County should choose me to be their County Attorney because I am the more experienced attorney, having done the actual, substantive work in virtually all aspects of the office for over 20 years. I know how the office works—why it currently is not working—and how it can and will work under new leadership and management.
Through their collective bargaining unit, I have been endorsed by the Assistant Olmsted County Attorneys. I am proud those that those who I am asking to lead have made me their choice in this election.
Our listeners frequently ask about light sentencing and plea deals. What is your stance when to pursue these deals?
Plea negotiation, or “plea deals” can include lighter sentences and a reduction in charges when the offender gives up his constitutional right to trial. It is an integral part of our criminal justice system. Many things are considered when entering into these agreements, including: the nature and severity of the offense, the criminal history of the offender, the strength of the evidence, the credibility of the witnesses, the wishes of the victim and the victim’s family in the case of a child victim, the input of law enforcement, the presumptive sentence, and the rehabilitative needs of the offender.
I believe that plea negotiation should always be considered when the goal is to solve the problem which led to the offense. But “lighter sentences” must be carefully considered in cases with presumed prison sentences, and those involving crimes against persons, including serious assaults, domestic assaults, sexual assaults, and cases with child victims.
What’s one thing you want the Rochester community to know about you?
I have lived in Rochester and practiced my profession in the greater Rochester and Olmsted County area for almost 30 years. It is my home, where I met my wife, and where we’ve raised our children. I can dream of visiting many other places, but except for a few weeks in January, I cannot think of any place I’d rather live and work. I admire all that our community has accomplished, and I offer my experience so that the Olmsted County Attorney’s office can help all that our community will accomplish.