Between them, Joe Shannon Jr. and Sharen Wilson have served the people of Tarrant County well for a combined total of more than 50 years.
As Shannon prepares to retire and turn over the office of Criminal District Attorney to Wilson Jan. 1, both can best serve the people by maintaining the same high level of dignity and service during what is inevitably a time of abrupt and jarring change.
Wilson’s stump-speech criticism of Shannon is reflected in her recent hires. She has named a new leadership team to oversee both criminal prosecutors and civil lawyers in the district attorney’s office, and new lawyers in several top positions.
Shannon’s staff has built a proud reputation as one of the state’s most experienced and efficient, carrying on the policies and traditions of his late predecessor, Tim Curry.
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Shannon’s last term was marred by a workplace civil rights complaint (settled out of court), but he and his office have continued to carry out their duties well as the county’s chief crimefighters.
Shannon recently listed 26 chiefs or top staff members who retired or resigned in the last six months, or for some other reason will not return in 2015. That would represent a turnover of about 1 in 12 employees, with a combined 425 years experience.
Wilson responded that most of the vacancies will be filled from Jan. 1.
She has said staff turnover is normal and expected with a change of district attorneys.
Her leadership team includes a 24-year county criminal court judge, a former chief prosecutor and a 17-year deputy chief prosecutor.
Wilson also has said few trials will be delayed as a result of the changes.
In club speeches across Tarrant County, she has laid out new missions for the office: to prosecute more white-collar financial crimes and more cases of elder abuse, which goes frighteningly unreported to law enforcement and unpunished.
During the campaign, she also said she wants to see county prosecutors work longer and harder. Nobody should be surprised when she carries out that promise.
Both Shannon and Wilson have long, proud careers at the courthouse.
A smooth transition would only add to each legacy.