Blenkinsop on ballot for prosecutor
Write-in primary winner touts professionalism, service.
By Sarah A. Reese, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
August 25, 2010
Greg Blenkinsop officially entered the race for county attorney Friday after a former court worker launched a successful write-in campaign to place his name on the Democratic ballot this fall.
Blenkinsop on Tuesday declined to offer an opinion on any specific cases handled recently by prosecutors, saying instead that he has the judgment and experience necessary to lead the Teton County and Prosecuting Attorney’s Office.
“I think that I have a record of professionalism and service to the public when I worked for the Public Defender’s Office, and that is the type of approach that I plan on bringing to the county attorney’s office if elected,” he said.
Blenkinsop, who grew up in California, joined the Wyoming Public Defender’s Office in 1996 after graduating from the University of Wyoming Law School. He moved to Jackson in 1999 and worked as the office’s supervising attorney for Teton and Sublette counties from 2005 to 2009.
In late 2009, he left Jackson to take a temporary position as a deputy prosecuting attorney in the Sweetwater County attorney’s office in Green River. He returned to the valley in April.
After Judge Timothy C. Day was appointed to the 9th District Court in May, Blenkinsop often filled in as a magistrate in 9th Circuit Court.
Blenkinsop also has served part-time as Alpine Municipal Court judge since the Town Council there appointed him in 2006. If elected, he would give up the position, he said.
“The fact that I have worked in three of the major components in the criminal justice system has helped me understand everyone’s perspective, and I think that would help me balance decisions in a positive way,” he said.
Blenkinsop will face off Nov. 2 against Republican Steve Weichman, who has held the office since 1996 and went uncontested in the 2006 election. The Jackson Hole News&Guide will feature Weichman in a story in a future edition.
Reached as last week’s primary election results came in, Blenkinsop said he wasn’t behind the grass-roots effort to place him on the ballot as a write-in candidate. He’d been approached by people, he said, but it wasn’t a formal campaign. He didn’t place a classified ad in the Jackson Hole Daily calling for a change, he said.
Bonnie Koeln, a former court clerk, placed the ad, and Blenkinsop said Tuesday she likely will be the treasurer for his campaign. He was still working on filling other committee posts, he said. (For more on Koeln, see this page.)
In an interview last week, Koeln said Blenkinsop has experience on both the criminal and civil side of the legal system.
Though much of Blenkinsop’s experience has been in criminal matters, he said he’s worked extensively in Teton County juvenile court. He’s also maintained a private practice over the years where he’s handled some noncriminal matters, he said.
“As the county’s civil legal counsel, I will strive to provide prompt quality legal advice and representation to the agencies and boards who rely on it,” Blenkinsop said in a statement Monday.
On his experience in criminal matters, Blenkinsop said the shift from a public defender’s mind-set to a prosecutor’s wasn’t difficult, because he believes in the system.
“I work as hard as possible to see that my job is done well and that my client is represented as well as can be,” whether the client is a criminal defendant or the state, he said. “Both roles are important, and I respect them both greatly.”
If elected, Blenkinsop said he would strive to improve collaboration among the county attorney’s office and the agencies it works with.
“That’s law enforcement, that’s the substance abuse and mental health care community and other important groups that get involved with the system,” he said. “I really want to reach out to those different entities and be available to hear their concerns.”
He said he would work with the agencies toward a common goal of protecting the community, rehabilitating people and helping kids who are struggling.
“Juvenile justice issues will be very important to me if I am elected,” he said.
As a deputy prosecutor in Green River, Blenkinsop handled mostly domestic violence and drug cases, he said.
Some of the drug cases involved felony charges, but most were misdemeanors. Most of the drug cases involved pharmaceuticals and methamphetamine, he said.
He’s seen the issue from both sides. As a public defender, he served many clients who had substance abuse and mental health issues, he said.
If elected, he would promote effective ways of dealing with substance abuse, such as the Teton County DUI/Drug Court and supervised probation, he said.
Blenkinsop said he’s been involved with the Teton County drug court since its inception in 2005 and served on a drug court team while working in Sweetwater County.
“I would promote effective programs like that because they work,” he said.
Drug courts reduce the cost society pays to deal with substance abuse and produce better outcomes for participants, he said.
When asked about the budget cuts the county attorney’s office recently faced, Blenkinsop said he was not intimately involved in the issue and has no special insight into the challenges staff members are facing.
“If elected, I would do my best to manage costs effectively and manage resources the best I can,” he said.
He also would work hard to ensure the lawyers on his staff are devoted to their jobs, prepared for court and on time, he said.
“I have a passion for the law and believe it is a lawyer’s obligation to do their best to ensure that the law and courts serve citizens in an equal and just manner,” Blenkinsop said in the statement. “The people of Wyoming and Teton County have provided many wonderful opportunities for me, and I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to give back by serving the people as their county and prosecuting attorney.”