The Source Newspaper sent a questionnaire to the incumbent Cass County State’s Attorney as well as the candidate running against him.
The answers below are from candidate Craig Miller. Incumbent Cass County State’s Attorney John Alvarez did not return our request for answers.
1. In your opinion, what is the most important responsibility of a State’s Attorney?
To effectively protect public safety.
2. Where do you currently reside, and do you have plans to reside in Cass County after the election? Why is that important/unimportant?
As an Assistant State’s Attorney of Morgan County, I reside, with my beautiful wife, Elisha, in Jacksonville, Illinois. We do have plans to reside in Cass County when elected State’s Attorney (in fact, Elisha was bummed to learn a house she was keeping an eye on recently sold on Editor Street in Ashland). I think it’s important to be a part of, and live in, the community you serve. That allows the State’s Attorney to understand what issues face your community, and helps you create a relationship between your neighbors and law enforcement to keep the public safe.
3. What is your opinion regarding the use of “alternative resolution” Courts such as Drug Court, Mental Health Treatment Court and Veteran’s Treatment Court?
Interacting with individuals who are arrested and who have a mental illness or an addiction is one of the most difficult challenges for a prosecutor. However, having represented the State in mental health court, and having personally observed Drug Court, I have seen firsthand the positive effect these courts have in more effectively protecting public safety. While there are absolutely violent individuals and drug dealers who need to be removed from society, we cannot ignore our veteran service members who struggle with addiction when they return home, individuals with diagnosable mental illnesses, and individuals who commit non-violent crimes as a result of drug addiction. I look forward to working with Judge Wessel in Cass County in exploring the possibility of a Drug Court, working with the 8th Circuit’s Mental Health Court’s presiding judge, and also discussing the opportunity for a Veterans Treatment Court in the 8th circuit.
4. What is your educational background and professional experience?
I received my undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and was awarded my Juris Doctorate from the Southern Illinois University School of Law in Carbondale. I have spent my entire career as a prosecutor handling a variety of cases, from traffic to Class X felonies, as an attorney in Morgan County and also as a Special Prosecutor in Sangamon and Greene counties.
5. Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised here in central Illinois. Born in Peoria, I grew up in Morton, Illinois where my dad, Robert, is an electrician and my mom, Linda, is a secretary for the electrical business. I have one older sister, Brooke, who is a CPA in Peoria, Illinois.
6. How does the relationship between the State’s Attorney and law enforcement agents affect the ability of the State’s Attorney to do his or her job?
I cannot stress enough how important it is for a State’s Attorney to have a good rapport with law enforcement to effectively do his or her job. I am proud of my relationship with the law enforcement community. It’s important to have a relationship officers can trust and that ultimately stems from beginning to understand what they go through on a regular basis. That doesn’t mean simply reading the reports and talking to them at court, but getting to know their first and last names, their phone numbers, and going on a ride-along.
I also believe the relationship is strengthened by holding each other to a higher standard; pushing and challenging each other. When that happens, we can both do our job effectively and efficiently.
7. What issues facing Cass County at this time do you believe could be improved by the State’s Attorney?
After knocking on doors, and talking with the community, it seems removing violent criminals from the county and the continued drug/methamphetamine problem are the main issues. Sheriff Ohrn has done a tremendous job at tackling the drug issue with new equipment and a drug dog, Nitro. I look forward to continuing with his momentum and working with all Cass law enforcement to aggressively remove drugs and criminals from the streets.
8. What is your opinion of the Governor’s Covid-19 related executive orders and how would you enforce those orders or why would you not vigorously enforce those orders?
My opinion is that the Emergency Act only allowed the Governor to declare a state of emergency for 30 days. Any subsequent emergency orders extending those powers have serious legal and constitutional issues.
However, there needs to be a balance between being overly cautious and being able to safely live our regular lives by carrying out our typical daily activities. As State’s Attorney, I would evaluate each incident on a case-by-case basis. I would consider the Covid-19 related cases based on the recently enacted laws, but would certainly keep in mind that there are more serious cases which need attention rather than convicting local business owners.
9. Why do you believe you are a better candidate for State’s Attorney than your opponent?
There is no doubt my opponent has experience, but, and it sounds odd, sometimes experience can hurt. I believe Cass County could benefit from a fresh perspective and a different type of experience. I have that experience, the dedication, and principles the public, and law enforcement, can trust. I look forward to being a part of the community as your next State’s Attorney and helping to make Cass County a safer place.