By Sarah Pridgeon
Joe Baron will run again for County Attorney at the upcoming elections, seeking a seventh term in office. If elected, he will continue to promote a forward-thinking attitude in the County Attorney’s office, anticipating the needs of the community while serving at the highest possible level.
“I am running so that, if I am elected to the office, I can continue to serve the people of Crook County,” he says.
Since his first term, says Baron, there have been a few changes, such as the increased emphasis on the Victim Witness Coordinators part of the office. This is funded with state dollars, he says, since it is a state mandate, and is more uniform than it has been in the past.
“The second change is the Juvenile Diversion Program and the Juvenile Probation Program. Those are things that we haven’t had in the past and we’ve been able to do them lately with federal, state and local funds,” he explains.
“I’m hoping they will continue, but it depends upon the budget of the elected officials.”
At present, federal funding is no longer available, though a minimal contribution of $10-15,000 may be available in the near future, he says. The state provides around $25,000 and the school district and county both contribute.
“If those don’t change, the program will end in about a year or so,” says Baron.
A third important change has been the office’s ability to work with juvenile offenders for more positive results, he adds.
“We’re able to spend more time on the front end with juveniles and therefore there has been less incarceration and better outcomes, less recidivism and fewer repeat offenders. We get pretty good acknowledgement from the community, schools and law enforcement that it actually works,” he says.
“The diversion program is not a slap on the hand, it’s pretty intense. The net result is that we have a lot fewer out-of-home placements, with kids going to the boys’ or girls’ schools – it still happens, but we have a lot less of it.”
If Baron is elected for another term, his focus would be on maintaining the high standards of the office, he says.
“I would hope that we would continue to serve the people in the county with the same level that we have been able to in the past. I don’t see an increase in employees, though our services have grown – we have the same number of people as we did ten years ago but the population went up 20 percent since the last census and will continue to go up,” Baron explains.
“We’re providing more services with the same number of people, so we’re becoming more efficient each day. I just hope that we will continue to be able to provide the services that we have.”
He will also, he notes, take a proactive approach to preparing for upcoming events.
“We do not know what will happen. Five years ago, we didn’t know about a Rare Element Resources, a Strata Energy or a Oneok Pipeline, so I think our office needs to continue to maintain its flexibility to deal with new issues as they arise and anticipate other issues and the impact they might have on the people of the county,” he says.
“The big thing is to try anticipate, but you still have to serve the people who you are elected to serve. The County Commissioners are the decision makers on which way the county goes, not the County Attorney.”
Baron invites any member of the community to call him with questions or concerns. He can be contacted at the office at 283-1090 or at home via 283-2163, and will also welcome visitors to the office if available.