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New DA ready to start job

DALLAS -- Aaron Felton is eager to get back into a courtroom.

Aaron Felton has served as the chairman of the Oregon Board of Parole and Probation since 2009. He will take office as Polk County's new district attorney Monday.

Photo by Pete Strong

Aaron Felton has served as the chairman of the Oregon Board of Parole and Probation since 2009. He will take office as Polk County's new district attorney Monday.

December 31, 2012

DALLAS -- Aaron Felton is eager to get back into a courtroom.

Felton, Polk County's new district attorney elected in May, hasn't served as a prosecutor since 2005, so he's been using the months since his election preparing to hit the ground running.

"One of the nice things about having a longer transition period is that I have also been able to work with many individual community partners here within Polk County and local officials," he said, noting he's been meeting with city police chiefs, Sheriff Bob Wolfe, and other elected officials in the county. "I'm trying to make good use of the time I have."

His long-awaited return to the Polk County DA's Office will happen Monday, when he takes office.

While Felton will be taking over as DA in fiscally uncertain times, he's glad for the opportunity.

"It's a good transition," said Felton, who has served on the Oregon Board of Parole and Probation since 2009. "I look forward to it. Part of the reason I ran for the job was that being a prosecutor was my career of choice."

He calls serving as a prosecutor "incredibly meaningful work," but recalls something former Polk County judge Fred Avera once said about the job as his motivation.

"He said `You get to do the right thing all the time,'" Felton said. "In fact, you are required to do the right thing all the time. In the legal profession, it's a pretty high ethical standard. However, as prosecutor it just really hit home for me."

He said under his direction the DA's office will be open to the public and he will make himself available to those who have questions or concerns.

Felton's top priorities will be to strengthen juvenile prosecution and victims assistance, calling the former an effective crime prevention tool and the latter an essential service of the DA's office.

Felton said his focus will be on streamlining operations as much as possible to make good use of limited resources, but the specter of more budget cuts hovers.

Polk County will face reductions in 2013-14 -- very likely significant cuts, which could impact staffing in the DA's office. One full-time prosecutor was cut in the current fiscal year, leaving only five. Another round of cuts would force Felton to re-evaluate how to prioritize cases.

"I will be advocating very strongly that we not take another cut because that would make it very difficult for us to do the things that we do at the same level," he said.

He pledged support of Polk County's law enforcement agencies in maintaining staff, saying that more officers on the street is "the most effective crime prevention tool out there."

Felton noted this is a time of transition in Polk County leadership, with the three Board of Commissioners members and all three circuit court judges having taken office in the last two years. He sees the transition as an opportunity.

"It's a new era here and people are really open to different ideas," he said. "I'm just really honored to be coming in now.

"I have really good feelings about us being successful in moving forward as a countywide team in serving our public," he added.

* A public swearing ceremony for Felton will take place on Jan. 17 (CONFIRM DATE???) at 3 p.m. in courtroom No. 1 at the Polk County Courthouse.

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