Chatfield, Minnesota, area native Joe Walsh, an attorney with the Curott & Associates law firm in Milaca, turns 33 today (July 30) as he works to convince voters that he would make the best Mille Lacs County attorney.
Walsh and his wife, Brooke, and their three children Truman, 6, Keen, 3, and Tesla, 3 months, live in Princeton. After earning his four-year degree from Macalester College in communications and political science, he obtained his law degree from the University of San Diego. His first job in legal work was as a law clerk for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Law Vegas, which was while he was in law school.
After that he worked a year at a law firm in Fresno, California. Then he returned to Minnesota and ran for Fillmore County attorney. He lost in the primary and then worked about a year at a law firm in Chanhassen. He has been in his present job since early 2008.
Asked why he went into law, he quoted the dean of the University of Minnesota Law School saying, “Being a lawyer is all about solving problems,” and “if you don’t want to deal with problems or troubles, don’t be an attorney. If you love challenges and solving problems, be an attorney.” He said he enjoys helping people in situations they don’t think they can handle, and getting them through their legal problems.
Walsh made an unsuccessful run against State Rep. Sondra Erickson, R-Princeton, two years ago for the state Legislature.
Walsh points to his being valedictorian in his high school class of 62 students and being in the top 10 percent at his law school and graduating magna cum laude, plus having worked on a wide variety of cases. He was a member of the San Diego Law Review and was its lead articles editor. “Each step I met and exceeded expectation,” he said.
His case work has included civil injury, criminal defense, real estate and contracts. He does everything but bankruptcy and tax cases at his present job, he said.
Walsh said that, if elected Mille Lacs County attorney, his goal would be to practice what he believes that office is all about – “justice without fear or favor … playing right down the middle because you represent the public.”
“Certainly I’ve worked hard in the community developing a reputation of honesty, integrity and trust on the chamber of commerce and Christ Our Light Church,” he said. He added that it’s important to “have trust in the county attorney.”
Keeping the community safe is the most important issue facing the county attorney’s office, and all other goals must come second, Walsh said. The second biggest issue facing the Mille Lac County Attorney’s Office, Walsh said, is preventing violence and crime through deterrence. Walsh suggested a better job can be done to rehabilitate offenders back into the community and said it is important not to have “punishment for punishment’s sake.”
Walsh’s third goal is to reduce the cost of the county attorney’s office. He said the county attorney’s budget doubled in the past 10 years, and, according to his data search, the office’s case load has gone down.
“As county attorney, I’d be more hands-on, taking cases myself and raising the role of the county attorney from a manager to someone who is engaging in the practice of law personally,” Walsh said. “Once I do that, I’d hope to decrease the size of the office through attrition.”
He also said that by “honestly charging cases based on facts,” the county attorney could help save costs. He explained that if that is done, the county could obtain more convictions and have fewer acquittals. It also helps create opportunities for persons to “admit fault, serve their time and if after that they follow all the rules of probation, they will have an opportunity to keep their record clear for future employment, he said.
Walsh said his private-practice experience has involved keeping costs reasonable for his clients, keeping a budget and “performing well enough to keep clients happy and recommending our services to others.”
Walsh also said he feels his being active in the community sets him apart as a candidate. That includes volunteering as an assistant speech coach at high school speech meets, working with the Milaca Chamber of Commerce and becoming its president and being part of the Milaca Business to Business group.
Talking more about why he is running for Mille Lacs County attorney, Walsh said he has talked with thousands of residents and said he just wants to get the position “back to doing the people’s work without distraction, and there certainly have been distractions.”