10/31/2018 2:20:00 PM Byron man running
for County Attorney
By Tara Lindquist
Geoff Hjerleid has spent the past twenty-two years working as both a civil and criminal prosecutor for the Olmsted County Attorney's Office. He currently serves as the lead attorney for the criminal division and is running to be the new Olmsted County Attorney. He is challenging the current attorney, Mark Ostrem who has been in office since 2006.
Hjerleid said it is time for new leadership within the attorney's office. "This isn't the Mark Ostrem attorney's office, this is the Olmsted County Attorney's office it's a public institution, it's our job to serve the citizens of the county not ourselves," he said. "It's time for new leadership in the office." Hjerleid pointed to a breakdown of communication in the office, a lack of leadership and ineffective prosecution policies in Olmsted County.
His fellow attorneys agree as Hjerleid has been endorsed by the Olmsted County Attorneys' Union the ASFME Local 65.
Hjerleid said one of the most frustrating policies in the office is the policy implemented by Ostrem regarding domestic violence cases. Approximately 25% of all cases handled by the attorney's office involve domestic violence. Hjerleid says under current policy if an offender of domestic violence pleads guilty in the early stages of the trial process the offender receives a stay of adjudication and probation for their first offense. Once the person has completed probation they do not have a conviction on their record. Hjerleid believes this policy goes against the statutes put in place by lawmakers and is a danger to the communities in Olmsted County.
The way low level drug offenders are treated is another area Hjerleid will address if elected as the Olmsted County Attorney. A "low-level drug offender" is a person that is chemically dependent but is not selling narcotics. Hjerleid would like to speed up the response time to get these offenders into chemical treatment and in return reduce incarceration rates.
"These are the cases the office deals with every single day, and they are not just public safety issues, but public health issues," Hjerleid said. "We live in the number one medical community in the world, and since our courts are a vehicle to address serious chemical dependency, I know we can do better. "
Geoff grew up in Decorah Iowa and graduated from Luther College with a degree in Political Science and earned his law degree from the University of Iowa. For twelve years he was an adjunct professor in the Master's Degree Program for Health Care Administration at St Mary's University.
He has practiced law for over thirty years, starting out in his own private practice and then moved on to become a public defender. He joined the Olmsted County Attorney's Office in 1996. He has prosecuted juvenile crimes, working in the civil division and is now the Lead Attorney in the Criminal Division.
In his personal time Geoff enjoys reading and is a self described movie snob. He also enjoys spending time with his horses, his family and learning to play new songs on his mountain dulcimer.