Huddleston will retire

Jackson County District Attorney Mark Huddleston announced Wednesday what many already knew, that he will retire in 2012, and threw his support for his replacement to his chief deputy.

A member of the district attorney's staff since 1980, Huddleston was appointed to Jackson County's top seat by then-Gov. Barbara Roberts in 1992 following the death of former District Attorney Bill Juba. Huddleston was then elected to the job the following November.

"I've been re-elected ever since," said Huddleston, whose term ends December 2012.

Huddleston has held only one other job before becoming a prosecutor. He worked at a catfish farm for one year in 1976, he said, "which was a strong motivation to go to law school." Huddleston teaches a criminal evidence class at Rogue Community College and said he hopes to do more teaching after he retires.

Huddleston endorsed Chief Deputy District Attorney Beth Heckert, whom he promoted to the position in 2000. He described Heckert as "extremely qualified," noting she has extensive trial court and administrative experience. Heckert has been with the prosecutors' office for 23 years, after being hired immediately out of law school.

"Experience matters in this race," Huddleston said. "Beth Heckert is clearly the most qualified candidate for this position."

Heckert, lead prosecutor on the Criado murder case, in which a Medford man is accused of killing his entire family, has worked with child abuse victims, the drug task force and juveniles. She currently supervises six attorneys in the office, and has trained many of the current deputy district attorneys, she said.

"I have dedicated myself solely to being a prosecutor," Heckert said, adding she has handled more than 1,000 felony cases, and taken more than 100 to trial. She also said she has prosecuted more homicide cases than any other attorney in the office.

Heckert will face a former state representative — and, likely, another county prosecutor — in the race for Huddleston's seat in 2012.

Rob Patridge, district director for U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Ore., announced in August he would run for the county's top law enforcement spot. Deputy District Attorney David Hoppe also has stated he will run for the office.

Patridge, a three-term legislator who served as majority whip for the GOP in the Legislature, is himself a former Jackson County deputy district attorney. He also served on the Medford City Council and was general counsel for Pacific Retirement Services, operators of the Rogue Valley Manor and other retirement facilities.

In his announcement, Patridge said he would like to see the district attorney's office be more collaborative with local nonprofit groups such as the Southern Oregon Meth Project and law enforcement agencies. Patridge is endorsed by Walden, numerous current legislators, Medford City Council members, Jackson County commissioners and Jackson County Sheriff Mike Winters.

Hoppe, who has worked with the District Attorney's Office since 2000, has not officially announced his candidacy, noting he has been handling three murder trials this summer.

Candidates can file for the office between Sept. 8 and March 6 to run in the May 15 primary.

Sanne Specht is a reporter at the Mail Tribune. Reach her at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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