Heidi McCollum emphasizes restorative justice, protecting vulnerable residents in DA race
KEYSTONE — Heidi McCollum is prioritizing alternative justice programs, protecting vulnerable residents and building strong community connections in her campaign to become the area’s next district attorney.
Primary elections are fast approaching on June 30, and McCollum will face off against fellow Democrat Braden Angel to take the helm overseeing offices in Summit, Eagle, Clear Creek and Lake counties. After seven years serving as assistant district attorney, McCollum feels she’s the right person to fill the role.
“I think throughout my time as the assistant district attorney, the experience I’ve had being the right hand in helping run the offices gives me a leg up,” McCollum said. “I’ve been involved in the budgetary and administrative processes. I’ve been involved in policy development and working with the governing board of the Colorado District Attorney’s Council and in helping to promote certain legislation at the state capitol by testifying at hearings. I’ve also been involved in case management, whether its stepping in and handling hearings that need to be covered or taking on larger felony cases that require special attention.
“I feel like I’ve done just about everything there is to do as the assistant district attorney … so I’m ready for this.”
McCollum is an Eagle County native. She graduated with a degree in political science from Colorado Mesa University and went on to earn her law degree at Chapman University in California.
McCollum interned at the Fifth Judicial District after school and went on to work with private firms in the area in everything from family law, criminal defense, estate planning and more. She stepped aside from law in 2006 to run a gymnastics center in Glenwood Springs and returned to private practice in 2011 before signing on as assistant district attorney in 2013.
In her campaign for the district attorney seat, McCollum said she would work to expand alternative justice programs, like the office’s existing adult and juvenile diversion programs, and emphasize restorative justice measures to dig into the root causes of minor crimes in the community in lieu of prosecution.
McCollum voiced a desire to protect more vulnerable members of the public like elderly individuals through education initiatives and strict prosecutorial standards for individuals pushing scams. She also expressed a desire to build better relationships with members of the Latinx community, who may be less willing to report crimes due to citizenship concerns, by highlighting U visa programs to protect victims from deportation.
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As nationwide conversations around police reform grow, McCollum said she wouldn’t be afraid to prosecute bad actors in local law enforcement agencies, pointing to her work in prosecuting former Lake County Undersheriff Fernando Mendoza who was convicted of aggravated incest in 2018.
She said she also would establish a conviction integrity unit at the office, which would independently review potential cases of wrongful conviction due to police or prosecutorial misconduct.
“As prosecutors, we have an obligation to ensure that if someone claims their conviction was not above board … that we do the right thing and make sure … their conviction is reviewed, and the process this District Attorney’s Office went through is scrutinized to make sure we didn’t misstep.”
McCollum also believes she will make a good leader for the deputy district attorneys and other staff working under her if elected, promising to be fiscally responsible and to work with her employees to integrate them into the community with local organizations and partners, and find projects they’re passionate about in the community.
Otherwise, McCollum said her work ethic speaks for itself.
“Ultimately one of the things this office requires is someone who is willing to do every ounce of hard work it takes,” McCollum said. “At the end of the day, nobody is going to be able to outwork me. The other prosecutors that I see on a daily basis are some of the hardest-working individuals I have ever known, and I’ll work with them through long days and coming in on the weekends to continue to get this job done. That’s what it takes, that’s what we’ve been doing, and that’s what I’ll continue to do.”
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