no new term for Holm Thurston County Chief Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Jon Tunheim announced Saturday that he is running for prosecuting attorney for the 2010 election - and current Prosecuting Attorney Ed Holm responded that he will step down after he finishes his term.
Holm, 70, who has served in the post since January 1999, said he still can do the job but does not want to stand in the way of Tunheim, who has served as the chief deputy prosecuting attorney since 2003.
Holm touted Tunheim’s people skills as an asset, saying he has “a lot of knowledge and a lot of contacts. He really gets along with other people and other agencies.”
Holm said he only would run for the post if Tunheim decided not to run.
“I think we’ve accomplished a lot,” Holm said of his tenure. “I hate to give it up.”
No one else has announced plans to run for the prosecutor’s job. The job pays about $140,000 a year, but that salary might have gone up slightly in recent years, Holm said. The county prosecutor serves a four-year term, and there are no term limits.
Tunheim, 45, has been with the Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office his entire legal career. He joined the office in 1998 as a legal intern while a student at the University of Puget Sound School of Law.
Since then, he has worked in a variety of roles, including as the in-house prosecutor for the Thurston County Narcotics Task Force and as a child-abuse and sex-crimes prosecutor.
“The next step in my career is to go ahead and run for office, and provide the leadership that the office needs,” Tunheim said during a phone interview Saturday afternoon, as he was on his way to his 8-year-old son’s football game. “It’s part of who I am. I honestly haven’t thought of doing anything else. I love the job and am proud of what we’re doing in the office.”
During the time he worked as a child-abuse and sex-crimes prosecutor, Tunheim helped create a special assault unit that exclusively prosecuted those types of cases. He also helped establish the Monarch Children’s Justice and Advocacy Center, a one-stop services provider for child-abuse victims in which prosecutors and police work with counselors and Child Protective Services.
As chief deputy prosecutor, Tunheim oversees the day-to-day operations of the prosecutor’s office. The office has 28 attorneys, in addition to the elected prosecutor, and a budget of about $7.5 million. Tunheim credited the overall competence of the trial attorneys in his office. The staff includes experienced prosecutors such as David Bruneau, Jodilyn Erikson-Muldrew and John Skinder.
Successful prosecutions during high-profile Thurston County trials in recent years include the 2008 conviction of Steven Mullins in the strangulation and stabbing of his wife in Rochester, and the 2008 conviction of Peter Inouye for the home-invasion rape at knifepoint of an 11-year-old girl in her bedroom in a residential Olympia neighborhood.
Also in 2008, Tunheim acted as trial attorney during the successful conviction of “Cowboy” Mike Braae for the 2001 rape and murder of Lori Jones in her Lacey apartment. Braae has been implicated as a suspect or person of interest in the disappearances, homicides or attempted homicide of at least four other women in Oregon and Washington but wasn’t convicted until after Jones’ homicide.
The biggest challenge facing the prosecutor’s office is budget cuts, the result of the economic downturn, Tunheim said. The office’s budget has decreased by about $700,000 over the past couple of years, he added, and the number of prosecutors and support staff members also has decreased.
Tunheim said that if he is elected prosecutor, one of his top priorities will be to increase services and facilitate prosecution of domestic-violence cases. Domestic-violence homicides have plagued Thurston County in recent years, Tunheim said; the most recent example was the shooting death of a woman at Lattin’s Cider Mill at the hands of an ex-boyfriend who then shot himself.
“I think family violence has a huge role in our overall crime rate in our community,” Tunheim said. “That’s why it’s such a high priority.”
Tunheim is from South Dakota, where his father worked as a physics professor at South Dakota State University. He and his wife, Marcia, live in the Steamboat Island area and have four sons.
Tunheim will run as a Democrat. He is active in community service and was a board president of the Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwest Washington and the Washington Government Lawyers Bar Association. He is the board president of the Child Care Action Council and Thurston County Crime Stoppers.
Jeremy Pawloski: 360-754-5465