After many respected and lauded years as the District Attorney for the Coweta Judicial Circuit, many citizens in LaGrange and Troup County were shocked to hear the news that Pete Skandalakis was moving into a new role and vacating his position. The search began for his replacement and this past January, that replacement was found in Herb Cranford. A native of Newnan, Cranford recently took over this new position and is poised to help many individuals throughout the community. In an interview with Troup County News, Cranford spoke at length about the process of becoming the new DA and the plans for the continued success of the office.
“I was born and raised in Newnan, Georgia and graduated from Newnan High School. My family has been there for several generations. I’m a third generation prosecutor so my father and his father were the solicitor general in Coweta County. I went to Georgia for undergrad and Mercer Law School so I’ve stayed pretty local. I interned for Pete Skandalakis while in law school and then after I took the BAR I came back and again, I was an unpaid intern until a spot opened up. I started in the Carroll office and was there for several months [until] Pete moved me back to the Coweta office. I’ve been in this area my whole life really.”
“I feel lucky [in that] a lot of the thought process and how to think about legal issues, I’ve been engaging with my dad in those conversations. I have an uncle that’s a lawyer too so a lot of my good friends growing up [had] parents that were lawyers so I have been around the people that think in that way. A little bit of that kind of comes naturally to me I think.”
Cranford touched on the actual process that went in to him becoming the new DA. “The DA is on the presidential election cycle. Pete was re-elected in 2016 and about midway through his term, the prosecuting attorneys council asked him to become their executive director. He decided to take that and that left a vacancy that gave the Governor the option of appointing Pete’s replacement as DA which is then followed by a special election this November. The Governor then started the appointment process. The process works where lawyers can nominate other lawyers to the Governor who can then allow any of those people to apply for the appointment. A few different attorneys chose to nominate me which I was honored when they did that. I thought my interview [with the Governor] went well. Two days later, he called me and told me that he had chosen me.”
Cranford would then speak on the future of his office and some of the main things that they will continue to focus on. “I’m excited about leading this office into the future. I have inherited a really good office from Mr. Skandalakis. It’s one of the most, if not the most well respected offices among other prosecutors in the state and the defense bar I think as well. A big thing is continuity, taking what I have inherited from Mr. Skandalakis and continuing all of those things the office does so well. I’m my own person so naturally I’ll have my own touch on things. “
“To touch on points of emphasis moving forward, I can’t say that I plan on making a bunch of changes overall. For example, and I think the public will probably like to know that Monique Kirby is my chief assistant just as she was for Pete and I’m very lucky to have somebody that experienced to be my right hand just as she’s been for Pete.”
“Gangs are a reality for communities. I was the first prosecutor in the circuit to go to trial on a gang case and thankfully we got a conviction. Continuing to address the reality of gangs in our community is an emphasis of mine. Addiction issues are everywhere and there are various drugs that people are addicted to. I think that my look at the statistics and my experience that there truly is an opioid epidemic in the country and our circuit is not immune to that. I’ve always been passionate about domestic violence cases so that’s a focus of mine as well.”
“I think overall, I want to continue [the] focus of our office to be motivated by doing what we think is the right thing, even if it is unpopular. My marching orders to the ADAs is that I want you to do in your discretion what you believe is the right thing to do. I expect them to be well prepared and to think through and reason through their decisions and be respectful to everybody involved. Another point of emphasis I want to continue that Pete had was victim services. He was one of the first DAs to start using what we call victim advocates, a person that is the point of contact for a victim and a liaison for each victim. That’s something I believe in and want to continue.”
“I have a lot of respect for our law enforcement community and all the work that they do in an often thankless job. Growing up with my father being a prosecutor and then a judge, that’s something that’s instinctive to me as well, is the relationship that prosecutors need to have with law enforcement and [showing] that we support them and what they do. Throughout the circuit, we are lucky in terms of leadership we have throughout law enforcement.”
“I take very seriously the role we have in protecting people’s civil liberties. I know, with this job there is a lot of responsibility, inherently a lot of power and the remarks I made at the swearing-in ceremony at the capital, I emphasized that I think humility plays a big role in counterbalancing the responsibility and power that inherent in the job and I am cognizant of and aim to embody, to humbly go about these serious decisions I make and that this office makes.”
The author of this article can be reached via email at jandrews@ troupcountynews. net.