Although she has not served as a prosecutor or assistant prosecutor, Jefferson City resident Deirdre "DK" Hirner believes her extensive background in the legal system and state government would make her an effective Cole County prosecutor.
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Hirner, a Democrat, is facing Republican Locke Thompson in the Nov. 6 general election. She was unopposed in the Cole County's August primary election.
"I am running because I think Cole County's citizens deserve a prosecuting attorney who is a true public servant," she said, "one who will ensure that justice is served and fairly applied to all. I've got 40 years of hiring people. And although I have not prosecuted a case, I have no fear of playing to my weakness, and I would go out and hire people who have that experience, and then working with them collaboratively to make the office work.
"The office is not just one person. It's a team of people, and I have managed people. And when I do, I make sure they have the resources that they need to get the job done."
Prior to getting into the legal profession, Hirner served as a park ranger in St. Louis County, which is a commissioned law officer for the county.
"I have an incredible amount of respect for law enforcement who have made that their career," Hirner said. "I know the value of listening to what they have to say and offer. If I'm elected, I'd want to have sit down meetings with law officers, members of the judicial system and the public about their expectations."
Hirner is a member of the Missouri Bar, the Illinois Bar and the American Bar Association. She is employed by the American Wind Energy Association, covering the Midwestern and Plains States, where she works with state and regional partner associations to promote legislation and regulation related to the wind industry.
"Having a diversity of experience is good," she said. "Whenever a prosecutor's office makes a decision, it affects a person's life. And having seen what the legal system can do to people's lives, I feel I can bring that knowledge to the prosecutor's office."
Hirner has been a senior staff member in the offices of Missouri Govs. Mel Carnahan and Bob Holden and Illinois Lt. Gov. Sheila Simon. During her time in the Illinois Capitol, she partnered with Simon to establish a virtual legal clinic to support domestic violence victims in rural Illinois. She also was involved in negotiations for the Live Adult Entertainment Facility Tax, which she said generated nearly $1 million in annual funds to support sexual assault programs and services.
"I think Cole County deserves a prosecutor who can be a strong advocate for victims," Hirner said. "At the top of my list are women and children. Many people probably know victims of domestic or sexual assault, and I bring the courage to work with folks who have been victims and to stand up for their rights."
Hirner also believes the work of alternative courts such as DWI, drug and veterans courts should be continued and possibly expanded.
"They each have a mental health component to them, and we know a lot of people who commit various crimes have mental health issues, so we need to treat them because the goal is to reduce the prison population with these courts," she said. "You want the violent criminals in jail while those who can be treated for their problems (are) able to stay as productive members of their community."
One of the things Hirner has noticed while talking with voters is that many do not fully understand what the prosecutor's office does.
"If I were fortunate enough to get elected, I would convene a meeting of stakeholders who are representative of the community and talk with them about what the office does, to offer transparency," she said. "I really believe if you are an elected official, you have a responsibility to tell the people what you are doing for them."