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Frieden appointed new Hubbard County Attorney

Jonathan Frieden was appointed County Attorney, effective April 7 to fill the vacancy left by Don Dearstyne's retirement. (Nicole Vik/Enterprise)

Hubbard County Commissioners have appointed Assistant County Attorney Jonathan Frieden as the new county attorney, effective Friday, April 7 following the retirement of Don Dearstyne.

Interested applicants, Erika Randall, who served as the Assistant Hubbard County Attorney for 12½ years and Frieden, both addressed the commissioners separately about their interest in being considered for the vacant position at the regular Hubbard County Board meeting on Tuesday.

Prior to the board meeting, the commissioners conducted private interviews with both Randall and Frieden. They spoke with other county department heads, law enforcement, judges, county residents as well as both applicants' past employers.

Each applicant was also presented with the same list of questions inquiring about their knowledge and experience regarding the functions of the county attorney's office when giving their presentations to the board.

Randall and Frieden addressed the commissioners about their abilities in handling prosecution services for the contracted cities, prosecution of felonies that occur in the county, child protection matters, civil matters, child support enforcement, chemical and mental health commitments, guardian and conservatorships, contract review, legal questions posed by the board and other departments as well as experience with personnel matters.

After hearing from both applicants, all of the commissioners agreed that both Randall and Frieden are highly qualified individuals capable of executing the duties of the county attorney.

After much discussion, Commissioner Charlene Christensen made the motion to appoint Frieden.

"I have had input from Hubbard County residents and I am basing my decision on the wishes of the people from Hubbard County that have expressed their opinions to me," Christensen said.

Commissioners Cal Johannsen and Ed Smith voted in favor of the motion, with Commissioners Vern Massie and Dan Stacey opposed.

"I am very humbled by being appointed. I do understand how hard this job can be but how much good can be done from this position in a variety of different ways, and by helping other county department heads for them to run more efficiently," Frieden said. "Overall, I'm just very excited to be in this position and I look forward to having good working relationships with both the courts as well as all the departments and doing the best we can for Hubbard County residents."

Frieden said he's been feeling a little overwhelmed with the transition since being appointed, stating that Dearstyne has been a great help.

"If I have any concerns it's the stuff that I don't know is coming yet," Frieden said. "I know that I can do the job. I know what it looks like. I've been working with Don and see the stuff that comes in. It's the stuff that you don't know because it only comes up every five years."

Frieden said that he's looking forward to being fully staffed with four attorneys in order to keep up with county business as well as their caseload. Being able to accommodate the needs of the county department heads is a top priority for him going into his new position.

"It's not that we're saying we can't help or that we don't care it's that we don't have time," Frieden said about the current situation. "People are still out committing crimes. There are still property issues coming up all of the time that we've got to deal with right away. It's a lot."

"I'm really looking forward to getting two more people in here so I don't feel like I'm drowning all the time. It's going to be an interesting month of April. Whoever we hire, I'm hoping that they can start very very soon," he added, saying that one of the biggest things he'll have to deal with right off the bat is delegating who will be doing what. "I'm looking forward to getting that nailed down, getting people in a position that if they don't already have that expertise that they'll start getting up to speed."

Frieden said he has nothing but good things to say about the commissioners as far as how they handled the interview process, stating that they put in a ton of time before appointing someone.

"They were in a tough spot, I think it was Cal who said, 'I really don't like appointing people who aren't elected' and I can appreciate that. I wouldn't either," he said. "They took it very seriously and they should be commended for that."

"The most valuable experience I've had is knowing this community. There's a reason why the county attorney is an elected person," Frieden added. "It's a tough job, but ultimately it comes down to whether the voters trust that whoever is in this position is going to make a just decision given the facts. And the person in the position has to be able to make a decision and stick with it."

Frieden says he is planning to run for county attorney when the term is up in December 2018.