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Piedmont circuit swears in its new prosecutor
New Piedmont Circuit District Attorney Brad Smith stands in front of a courtroom with the Bible he purchased for Monday’s swearing-in ceremony. Voters elected Smith over former prosecutor Rick Bridgeman and attorney Donna Sikes for the position. - photo by LeAnne Akin

Brad Smith took his oath of office Monday as the new district attorney of the Piedmont Judicial Circuit, administered by Senior Judge T. Penn McWhorter at the Jackson County Courthouse.

Smith was elected as district attorney to serve Barrow, Jackson and Banks counties after a three-way July primary and an August runoff with Jackson County attorney Donna Sikes.

Smith fills the office held by District Attorney Rick Bridgeman, who was appointed in August 2007 by Gov. Sonny Perdue to fill the vacancy left by the May 2007 resignation of longtime prosecutor Tim Madison. Bridgeman sought election to the post but was topped by Smith and Sikes in July.

Smith worked 11 years in the Piedmont Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office in the offices in Jackson and Barrow counties.

For Smith, coming to the office at a time of financial downturn is not something expected early in the campaign.

"It sort of took everyone by surprise," Smith said.

The state of Georgia’s 6 percent budget cut for all departments in September meant furloughs one day a month. Smith said the possibility of a 10 percent cut at the beginning of the year likely will affect personnel, as there are few places in the office where cuts can come since certain paperwork is essential to operations.

"The counties are also freezing personnel," said Smith about the county governments’ response to the economic uncertainty ahead. In Jackson County, an investigator’s position remains open and a staff position in Barrow also remains unfilled.

Smith said staffing will remain that way for the foreseeable future, although he hopes the economy will rebound sooner than later.

With law enforcement seeing an upswing in crime during the economic downturn, workloads for the district attorney’s staff in the three counties are going up when resources are going down, Smith said.

"We are going to have to be creative in order to be more efficient and effective," he said.

The role of the office is to pursue justice and help families find closure when possible, he said.

For Smith, it meant a lot to place his hand on the Bible he bought for the occasion and take his oath with family and friends present. He said going through life, he imagined himself as a district attorney as the pinnacle of his career. At 37, he is at that pinnacle.

"It is truly humbling, and it is exhilarating," said Smith, who notes he has so much to be thankful for. He said he was proud to have wife, Christine, who he forged a life with when they came as newlyweds to a new state with no job, no money and no family here.

"We have been through so much together," he said.

Smith said he is anxious to "sit down with the assistant district attorneys and communicate what my sense of justice is."

Smith said he must be able to trust the abilities and judgment of those around him, and he knows they have good ideas to share.

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