HOUGHTON - This year's Houghton County prosecutor race is a rematch of 2010.
Houghton County Prosecutor Democrat Michael Makinen is running against Republican challenger Pam Dobbs. The two previously ran against each other in the 2010 Democratic primary.
Makinen spent 32 years in private practice in Hancock prior to becoming prosecutor in 2009. Makinen said the office has continued to run efficiently with a high volume of work while being lower-staffed than comparably sized counties in the Upper Peninsula.
Michael Makinen, D
"When I came into the office, essentially three-quarters of the office had been replaced in a two-year period without the office missing a beat," he said. "Financially, we've been able to help the county out. It looks like we're going to be receiving increased funding on family support issues that we handle (through $30,000 a year of additional grants). We've been able to increase funding to the sheriff through plea agreements. So doing the job well, and efficiently, is what the office is about."
Makinen said his experience as prosecutor and three decades as a lawyer have given him the familiarity with Michigan civil and criminal law necessary as prosecutor.
"To handle this office with efficiency, you have to have that experience, or there's going to be problems," he said.
Makinen said his priorities for another term would remain the same - evaluating the cases as they come in, and staying positioned to handle changes in Michigan law that are continually being made by Michigan's Supreme Court and legislature.
The public sees only a fraction of the volume of work the prosecutor's office does, he said, which in addition to criminal cases includes juvenile offenses, abuse/neglect proceedings, family support issues and civil advice to the county board.
"You come and see a few cases in court; the reality is, in 2011 there were 184 felonies filed in this county," he said. "That's a tremendous amount of work we have to do. You see some trials, that's only the tip of the iceberg what's being done here."
Dobbs has been a private attorney in the Copper Country for four years. Her 29-year legal career includes eight years as a prosecuting attorney in New Mexico.
Dobbs was motivated to run by how much she enjoyed her time as prosecutor, she said.
"I like private practice, but there's something more satisfying to me about being in the prosecutor's office handling criminal cases exclusively," she said.
Dobbs said her priority will be rebuilding the trust law enforcement and the community have in the prosecutor's office.
"One thing I intend to do, if I get in, is to visit the law enforcement offices, meet the officers, get to know them a little bit, find out what it is they need, what they would like to have a prosecutor do for them," she said.
Dobbs said she would also review any cases pending trial to determine if it should be settled.
"If the trial is anticipated, I'll prepare thoroughly for the trial, and take the case to trial as soon as possible," she said.