LIVE OAK — Working at the State Attorney’s office since 2007, John Durrett knows how the prosecutor’s office in the Third Judicial Circuit works.

During the Suwannee County Voters League’s Meet the Candidates forum June 16, Durrett said that knowledge includes what works well and what doesn’t. He added it makes him the ideal candidate for state attorney in the Aug. 18 universal primary.

“I know the strengths and the weaknesses that exist in that office,” he said. “I know the things that need to change.”

Tina Seifert, a former assistant state attorney herself who has 25 years of experience practicing law and has owned and operated her own practice since 2009, agreed that there is a need for change in the state attorney’s office.

“I think it’s through education and communication that a change can be made,” she said. “I think it’s time that there is a change when it comes to the office of the state attorney.

“You deserve (the state attorney’s office to be better) and I think you know you deserve that.”

Both Seifert and Durrett stressed the need for better communication, both with law enforcement and the communities within the Third Circuit.

“We need to be more engaged with our law enforcement, we need to be more engaged with our community, listening and ensuring that we’re doing what’s right at every turn,” Durrett said. “I will be open and honest in my communications with your community and with your law enforcement to ensure that we’re doing all we can to keep you safe.”

In addition to improved communication, Seifert said the state attorney needs to be active in the community as well as in the courtroom. She said she would start community involvement through education in an effort to deter youth from becoming criminals in the future.

“I think it’s important that we work as a community as a whole, in conjunction with law enforcement, school personnel and others, to bring education to the schools on the topic of criminal justice,” said Seifert, who also has worked as a volunteer probation officer and a community corrections officer and is also a Guardian ad Litem and a certified family law mediator.

Both agreed that the state attorney’s office plays a key role in that criminal justice system: rendering justice while remaining fair and impartial.

Durrett, who said his main job was to prosecute cases involving murder cases and child molestation cases, said the state attorney must do more than just punish criminals though.

“We must protect the constitutional rights of all citizens,” he said. “We all enjoy the same rights, no matter who you are and no matter where you come from.

“Above all, justice will be provided for all.”

Jamie Wachter is the editor of the Suwannee Democrat, Jasper News and Mayo Free Press.

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