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In a few weeks, I will take an oath and be sworn in as the next Missoula County Attorney. I was born into a hard-working Montana family. My parents taught me the values of a strong work ethic, long hours on the job, humility, a sense of humor and the importance of treating people with dignity and respect. I worked through college and law school and dedicated two decades to criminal prosecution and my law practice.

The last few years have seen challenges at the county attorney’s office. When the current county attorney announced his retirement, I was compelled to run for office because of widespread concern that we can no longer continue on the current path. I pledged to take the office in a new direction. You voiced your belief in me by voting for me in the contested primary and uncontested general elections.

My management philosophy is simple – work hard, listen to others and be kind. Public service is an honor and a privilege – and lot of work which entails listening to different viewpoints and welcoming constructive feedback. The result is a safer, more responsive, more efficient local government that abides by the highest ethical standards.

I’ve been busy preparing for my new leadership role. During the campaign, I promised that I would foster an atmosphere of working together. Since the day after the primary, on my own time, I've spent countless hours meeting with civic leaders, concerned citizens as well as internal employees, laying the groundwork for a smooth transition. I've had productive discussions with city officials, law enforcement leaders, university administration, Public Defender leadership, Department of Corrections, Department of Justice – state and federal, Child and Family Services, Crime Victim Advocates and many, many others in preparation for leading the County Attorney’s Office to new heights while focusing on serving the public. I signed up for this position with my eyes wide open. I acknowledge the climate of skepticism about government and concerns about public safety – and I will work tirelessly to address these concerns.

I am looking forward to implementing some improvements in current programming and unveiling some new programs as well. My first priorities are geared towards improving public safety and improving delivery of services.

Department of Justice

The final agreements with the Department of Justice and Attorney General incorporated many of my original suggestions, including hiring a victim witness coordinator, designating specialized prosecutors and providing them with necessary training. Our new Special Victims’ Unit will exceed those standards and will provide an ongoing coordinated community response to the challenges related to prosecuting sexual assault.

Crimes against children

Prosecuting crimes of physical and sexual abuse against children while working with Child and Family Services to offer permanency for the most vulnerable members of our community will be a highest priority for the office. These kids are our future and deserve our attention.

Land use and permitting

The County Attorney’s Office will work closely with other county departments to constantly evaluate processes for efficiency, fairness and ease of use. Our goal is to offer assistance, not resistance and avoiding unnecessary, expensive litigation.

Other programs

In addition, I am working on customer service training; distributing instructions for small businesses on avoiding embezzlement and fraudulent transactions and bad check collection; looking at the cost effectiveness of criminal mediation; and will require periodic quality improvement reviews.

I will be sworn in on Dec. 30. On Jan. 1, I will once again walk through the doors of the Missoula County Attorney’s Office, push up my sleeves and get back to work on providing a safer, more responsive, more efficient local government.

I cannot promise that everyone will always be happy all of the time. Growth and change, even when necessary, can be uncomfortable. I will promise that I will remain humble, that I will listen to concerns and that I will always strive to do what is best for our community.

Please look over my shoulder and ask lots of questions. I will share with you what we do, how we do it and always keep my ears open for innovative ideas on how to do it better. That is what I signed up for.

Kirsten Pabst is Missoula's County Attorney-Elect. 

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