Douglas County needs an experienced and people-oriented prosecutor, incumbent Jerry Wells said this morning as he announced his candidacy for Douglas County district attorney.
"I am the most qualified and experienced person for the job of district attorney," Wells told a group of 40 who gathered for the announcement at the Lawrence Senior Center, 745 Vt.
Since taking office in June, Wells said, he has been out talking to Douglas County residents.
"I think people are concerned with the increasing crime rate," Wells said, noting specifically that some residents were worried about drug use and trafficking in the community.
"They want to make this a safe and comfortable community," he said.
WELLS WAS nominated by Douglas County Republican Precinct Committee members in June to complete the term of his predecessor, Jim Flory, who resigned to take a job with the U.S. attorney's office in Kansas City, Kan. The committee's selection then was approved by Gov. Joan Finney.
A Wichita native, Wells completed his undergraduate work at Wichita State University and obtained a law degree at Washburn University.
Wells, 51, has worked in the district attorney's office for nearly a decade. He started as an assistant district attorney in 1983 and moved up to first assistant in 1985. He held that position until Flory's resignation last May.
Wells noted his office's success in prosecuting criminals and cited the conviction of Tyrone Baker, who now is serving four consecutive life terms in prison in conjunction with a 1989 kidnapping and murder spree that took place in both Shawnee and Douglas counties.
"I WILL BE tough on criminals," Wells said.
Wells also cited figures that show restitution to crime victims rose from $145,000 in 1990 to $212,000 in 1991 "through the hard work of my staff."
Although he said in June that he would merely support policies established by his predecessor in the district attorney's office, Wells has made his own mark.
This includes setting up the sex crimes unit, which specializes in prosecution of all cases, including rape, that are considered sex crimes.
If he is elected, Wells said, he did not foresee a lot of personnel or procedural changes in the district attorney's office.
"I THINK the basic structure of our office has been very, very good," he said.
Wells is seeking the Republican nomination for DA, and would face an Aug. 4 primary election if another GOP candidate comes forward. The general election is scheduled for Nov. 3. Wells has yet to officially file for the nomination.
So far, Wells faces no competition for the job, said Chris Miller, chairman of the Douglas County Republican Central Committee.
When Flory resigned in May, local attorney Jim Rumsey expressed an interest in the job but has not said whether he would run in the November election, Miller said.
Wells and his wife, Rhonda, are parents of two children, Jaimie Marie, who attends Deerfield School, and Jason, a senior in the pre-med program at Harvard College.