Candidates say experience, communication counts in office

OSCEOLA COUNTY – Incumbent James Sims will be challenged by political newcomer Tyler Thompson for the Osceola County prosecuting attorney’s seat for the 2013-16 term.

Sims is a lifetime resident of Osceola County. He completed his undergraduate studies at Ferris State University and law school at Thomas M. Cooley School of Law. He has 12 years of experience in the legal field, having worked as a special deputy for the Osceola County Sheriff’s Department, a law clerk for attorney Kim Booher and an attorney in his own practice for three years before taking his current office.

Thompson has been a Reed City resident all his life. He completed his undergraduate studies at Hope College and law school at Michigan State University College of Law. He has held internships at various law firms and currently is an attorney with the firm of McCurdy, Wotila and Porteous where he has worked for five years.

Results of the Aug. 7 primary election will decide whether Sims or Thompson will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. There are no Democratic candidates running for the position.

To help keep voters informed on the candidates’ views and opinions, the Herald Review posed several questions about

issues facing Osceola County, how the next prosecutor plans to improve inter-departmental relationships and why they believe they are the best candidate for office.

The responses to the Herald Review’s questions from candidates for prosecutor and county commissioner will be published in the weeks leading up to the election. Questions and answers from sheriff candidates ran in the July 11 edition of the Herald Review.

For fairness, questions were identical and all answers were limited to 150 words.

HERALD REVIEW: Why are you running for the office of prosecutor for the 2013-16 term?

JAMES SIMS II: I am re-running for prosecuting attorney because I was requested to do so by law enforcement as well as the public. In the past four years there has been great strides made to fix issues that were of concern. Law enforcement has gained confidence in this office and enjoy the openness that is present when they have issues of concern, from cases to inter-department problems. They know that if they have a problem, I will address it and help resolve it, no matter whose toes I have to step on. I know the public expects me to look out for what their interests are, not what is best for politics. I will continue to fight crime as well as corruption in the system. My record shows that this is my policy. People need to trust the system and the people within it and not worry about political gain.

TYLER THOMPSON: I’m running for prosecutor, because our community will be safer with a prosecutor who’s willing to prosecute and try cases. Criminals within our communities need to be held accountable for their actions, and need to be made to answer for their crimes. This is why individuals within law enforcement, our courts, and our county offices, have been actively encouraging me to run for prosecutor.

As lead prosecutor for the City of Reed City, I know that what I do helps protect our community, and I thoroughly enjoy working with law enforcement. It is only natural that I extend that solid foundation to the county level, and continue to serve by keeping our citizens SAFE. If you have any questions about the current state of county prosecutions, I invite you to ask a member of law enforcement.

HERALD REVIEW: What makes you the best candidate for the office?

SIMS: I have worked in the court systems now for over 14 years. I started with drug testing for parole and probation. I moved up to being an Osceola County special sheriff’s deputy. Then I worked for years as the law clerk for a prominent local attorney. I went on to open my own law practice for three years before being elected to prosecuting attorney. ALL that experience has made me a well-rounded experienced prosecuting attorney. Many issues need this experience. With only minimal experience you would not be able to understand the intricate details in every type of case. It takes years of experience to handle major felony cases. It is a far step up from prosecuting only ordinance violations. A mistake at this level can put a murderer or rapist back on the streets. That is a disservice to the citizens. In this year’s election, experience counts.

THOMPSON: I have the experience necessary to effectively prosecute crime in Osceola County. For five years, I have been the lead prosecuting attorney for the City of Reed City, and spent one year as the lead prosecuting attorney for the City of Cadillac. I am aggressive and tough, and will take cases to trial. As a lifelong resident, I know and love Osceola County, my grandfather founded Liberty Dairy in Evart and my father hauls milk from local farms to the dairy. Since 2010, I have been the president of the Reed City Area Chamber of Commerce, and am a member of Rotary. I serve in leadership positions within the Reed City United Methodist Church, and am on the Asset Development Team of the Osceola County Community Foundation.

Currently, the job is not getting done. From day one, I will make the criminals accountable for their actions.

HERALD REVIEW: What are some of the greatest issues facing law enforcement in Osceola County today, and how do you plan to face these issues?

SIMS: Meth and CSC complaints are growing. We have a great drug task force that involves local law enforcement. We also have great officers that handle the CSC complaints. Law enforcement needs a strong leader with experience to show them that the prosecutor will not tolerate crime in our community. This is not a political stepping-stone. I was requested to run again based on my experience and commitment to being a life-long prosecutor. That is what the citizens need here to fix the problems this county has - not a changing of the guards every four years, just because of politics and a person’s ability to get on a ballot. Change takes years, not just one administration period. The citizens need consistency of leadership in this office. I have shown by my actions that I cannot be pressured by politics. That is an asset in this office. Change takes time.

THOMPSON: A common complaint I hear from those who serve in law enforcement is the lack of prosecution and lack of assistance from our current prosecutor’s office. Our law enforcement must be able to rely on the prosecutor’s office for advice, assistance, and counsel. When a crime occurs, our hard-working officers need to know that the prosecutor’s office will be there to PROSECUTE criminals.

When a law enforcement officer has a question or concern, I will be available day or night, and will work with them to get the issue resolved. I will be accountable to law enforcement by keeping them updated–they will not have to wonder about the status of any case. I will also meet regularly with police agencies and listen to their suggestions on how the Osceola County Prosecuting Attorney’s office can be most effective in helping them – which in turn, helps all of us.

HERALD REVIEW: How do you expect to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office in the 2013-2016 term?

SIMS: There is a misconception that there is a problem between the prosecutor’s office and law enforcement. That is far from the truth. There is a great working relationship between law enforcement and the prosecutor’s office. There has to be checks and balances in the system. That is the job of the prosecutor. When there are disagreements, we discuss them and resolve them. This at times is not popular but necessary. Citizens need to be secure in knowing that every investigation is conducted above reproach. Unethical conduct will not be tolerated. To do otherwise or say different would be just rubber-stamping one persons version with out due process. NO ONE is above the law. I will do my job, no matter who the person is. I don’t care what someone’s position is or who his or her realitives are. Justice is BLIND, not stupid. Equal justice for ALL.

THOMPSON: Communication. I will diligently help our law enforcement in any way I can. Early on as city attorney, I participated in several “ride- alongs” with our on-duty Reed City officers. Spending time with law enforcement helps me understand how I can best support our officers as they protect our community. Furthermore, I will talk with law enforcement regularly, and will start with quarterly meetings where I can hear the concerns of our deputies, officers and troopers. Our law enforcement needs to be confident that once they have made an arrest, they have someone on their side who will work with them through their investigation and through the trial. Criminals need to be held accountable for their actions.