Ron Brown, Clatsop County’s first new district attorney in 25 years, doesn’t plan on changing much.
Brown, who served as the chief deputy for 15 years, won election in May and was sworn in earlier this month. He replaces Josh Marquis, who retired.
Brown said he has confidence in his staff and local law enforcement. He’s comfortable with the direction of the office because, as chief deputy, heplayed an integral role in shaping policies and procedures.
“I’m not trying to change anything Josh was doing,” he said. “Just do a little better.”
His goals largely align with his predecessor, as the two have similar views on how to prosecute crime and work with victims.
The biggest differences, Brown said, will mostly come down to personality and presentation.
“We’re totally different people. People were kind of surprised we got along as well as we did for 15 years because we’re night and day,” he said.
Marquis was known for his vocal role on state and national issues, especially his advocacy for the death penalty and for Measure 11, the state ballot measure that set mandatory minimum prison sentences for violent crime.
Brown, a self-described introvert and lover of small-town life, intends to keep his focus local.
“I’m interested in national issues, but I’m not really interested in getting myself involved with them on a national level,” Brown said. “It’s just not my character.”
But the public will see continuity. Brown, for example, plans to continue the office’s commitment toprosecuting long-term sex abuse cases involving children.
While outside the limelight, Brown hopes to continue the office’s legacy of supporting the death penalty and mandatory minimum sentences, issues he will be monitoring as changes will likely be discussed in Salem.
In a lot of ways, Brown boils his job down to being “the county hard-ass.”
“We always have to look at it from the most conservative position ... and we’re not necessarily going to stay with the most conservative position,” he said. “We don’t have to try to get the death penalty on everyone who is charged with an offense that may qualify for the death penalty ... But we have to take a law enforcement approach to things.”
Brown also sees education as a central goal of his office. He hopes to invest more in preventative education, whether that means talking to high school students about the consequences of sexting, making mental health resources better known, or informing people about the signs of a possible predator.
One issue Brown believes needs more attention is the large number of car crashes in the county. A recent report in The Oregonian found that Clatsop County had the most drunken-driving crashes per capita in Oregon from 2013 to 2017.
Brown believes the cause is a mixture of high alcohol abuse rates, narrow and winding coastal roads and overall impatience by drivers. One of his goals is to create a major crash team, similar to the county’s major crime team, that would help investigate and respond to crashes that involve multiple drivers and shut down the highway.
At 64 years old, Brown doesn’t expect an extended stay as district attorney. But he hopes to make things better while he’s in charge.
“One term in this office may do me just fine depending on my health and just how well the voters like having me be DA,” he said. “I’m not trying to create any kind of big thing here of my own … (I) just want to improve upon what we already have here.”