Candidate Q&A: Henry County District Attorney

Democratic candidates Holly Veal and Darius Pattillo are squaring off for the open Henry County District Attorney seat. Republicans Matthew McCord and Sandi Rivers are also facing each other in the May 24 primary election. (Special Photo)

McDONOUGH — The Henry Herald sent out questionnaires to the four candidates who are running for Henry County District Attorney. Democrats Darius Pattillo and Holly Veal are squaring off in the May 24 primary election, while Matthew McCord and Sandi Rivers, both Republicans, are vying for the open seat. The following are the responses from the candidates. Pattillo did not return a response.

1. What specifically do you want voters to know about you to help them decide to cast their votes for you?

• Matthew McCord

My experience makes the difference. I served as a prosecutor in two different jurisdictions when I began my career. Following my time as a prosecutor, I was trained by some of the finest trial attorneys I have ever met when I worked for a firm in Atlanta and represented clients in courts all over the state of Georgia. In 2007, I opened my own general practice in McDonough, and I was appointed to be a municipal court judge in 2015. In 2016, I was elected by the Municipal Court Judge’s Association to serve as one of five judges on the state Municipal Court Judge’s Training Council. I had the honor of being named one of Georgia’s Rising Stars, the top 2 percent of Georgia’s young attorneys, for three years. I also served as the president of the Henry Bar Association.

Henry County needs a district attorney who has a broad base of experience as a trial lawyer, who will seek justice with strength, while affording mercy where appropriate, and who is committed to serving the people of this county. I am that candidate, and I will be that district attorney.

• Sandi Rivers

I would like the voters to know that the office of the district attorney is the only avenue by which a felony criminal case can be prosecuted on behalf of the people of Henry County. As such, it is extremely important to have someone in the office with experience as a prosecutor, an investigator, and as a leader. I have that experience. I have been an assistant district attorney for the past 20 years. Prior to that, I was an investigator in Henry County at the Sheriff’s Office, the Police Department, and the District Attorney’s Office. I have a successful record of investigating and prosecuting difficult cases. Most recently, I have been leading the Lamar County District Attorney’s Office where I worked with law enforcement, staff, and the public in order to successfully prosecute cases on behalf of the public. I have the right experience to be the next District Attorney of Henry County.

• Holly Veal

The rights of victims of crime will be my first priority as district attorney. On Day 1, I intend to implement a 24-hour rule, guaranteeing that victims of crime, law enforcement and attorneys are responded to within 24 hours of calling our office. I will also ensure that there is an attorney assigned daily to handle any calls from the community and address the legal questions and general concerns of the community. I want the voters to know that as district attorney I will ensure that my office is accessible, and accountable, to their community.

2. What prompted you to run for District Attorney?

• Matthew McCord

The answer is simple. I want this county to be a place that is safe for my wife and my little girl. When she grows up, I want this to be a place she would still want to call home. I want the same for your families. I want our justice system to be tough on criminals and yet fair to those who come through our courts.

• Sandi Rivers

I decided to run for district attorney after several members of the legal community contacted me and encouraged me to run after the current district attorney announced he would not be seeking re-election. I am not one that ever thought of seeking a political office, but I do love being a prosecutor and am passionate about the profession. Although initially resistant to seeking office, I became convinced that Henry County needed the choice of someone with the right experience to do the job.

• Holly Veal

There was no other candidates in the race who had practiced as both a prosecutor and defense attorney in Henry County. I believe that voters want to see a district attorney who has been there for the citizens of Henry County long before running for this position. I have been in this county for eight years, representing both defendants and victims. And it is that unique perspective, working every day in the county which I lived, that as district attorney I could ensure a safe place for my children and the children of this community.

3. How do you propose to gather support from others for programs, laws and issues you’d wish to promote?

• Matthew McCord

Gathering support from others began in my life well before I started running for office. It is in the relationships that I have built over the years in this community. The next district attorney is going to have to be able to work to build a coalition with the commissioners, the legislative delegation, and the state to ensure funding for our law enforcement officers, and our district attorney’s office. We have to have a true community servant who can build bridges and bring people along to do the right thing. I can do that.

• Sandi Rivers

I have built and established relationships with Georgia’s Prosecuting Attorneys Council and many of our local legislative delegation over the past 20 years that I have served as an assistant district attorney. In addition, I have found our citizens to be very charitable. I look forward to working with organizations in the community directed toward crime prevention, victims assistance, and reform and rehabilitation of the accused.

• Holly Veal

I am well respected in the legal community by both Republicans and Democrats. It is that level of bipartisanship that allows me to build consensus among people in this community to implement programs such as a Veteran’s Court. Our community has sent its fair share of our citizens off to war, and it is our job to ensure that they have the assistance they need when they return to our community.

4. How invested are you in Henry County?

• Matthew McCord

I have been here for 16-and-a-half years. My family and I go to church here and we live just off of the McDonough Square. I have been a volunteer mock trial coach at Eagles Landing High School, and have also volunteered with their band program. I was the region 12 (Henry County) mock trial coordinator, and I also served as the president of the Henry Bar Association. I was in Kiwanis, and I have even been on stage with the Henry Players over the years as Huck Finn in “Big River” and Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” I also serve on the McDonough Arts Council.

Aside from all of that, I’m a regular up at Gritz on the Square and the Deep South Deli, and here lately I’ve even had the privilege of biscuits and coffee up at Miller’s store. I’m not just invested; like most of the folks reading this, this is my home. This is my family’s home.

• Sandi Rivers

I have been a resident of Henry County for 31 years. I have owned a home here since 1992 and my career has been that of public service primarily in Henry County. My husband, Dave, and I reside in the Ola Community of Henry County. Dave has worked in Henry County for the past 24 years at Bennett Motor Express in McDonough. We have made Henry County our home and I am very invested in having a safe and comfortable place for us all to live and enjoy.

• Holly Veal

I have lived and worked in this county for eight years. My two daughters attend school in Henry County. I have a small business in Henry County. I am on the school board and I sit on the board of directors for the Hands of Hope Clinic. For the last eight years, I have invested my time, my talents, and my children into this community and will continue to do so as district attorney.

5. What are your plans to make Henry County safe?

• Matthew McCord

To begin with, we have to make sure that our law enforcement officers are well supported, well trained, and want to stay here. If we don’t solve that issue, we have a significant long-term problem. Then we have to make sure that the lawyers and staff in the district attorney’s office are well trained and well supported. Our police, our deputies, and our prosecutors are our front line. If they are doing their jobs well, then we can ensure that violent criminals are punished and kept off the streets. I have no tolerance for those who want to come into my home county and commit burglaries, armed robberies, and violent crimes against my neighbors and my community. I’ll fight to protect you and your family just like I would fight to protect mine. If I am elected, those people will find out quickly that they need to take that activity elsewhere. Moreover, as district attorney, I and those in my office will be in our schools and in our community teaching, mentoring, coaching and volunteering so that the young people we meet every day will be changed for the better and won’t ever have to face us in superior court.

• Sandi Rivers

I intend to be a firm prosecutor and employ assistants with the same will and tenacity that I have. I look forward to the opportunity to mentor my staff, whether it’s attorneys, investigators, or victims advocates. I also look forward to being a presence in the law enforcement community to convey the type of investigations needed to successfully prosecute on behalf of our community and crime victims. I want to build a reputation that criminals know not to come to Henry County to do their business.

I also will support our local agencies and charities to prevent criminal behavior in our youth. It is very important that we support organized activities for our youth, ensure they complete their education, and stay away from drug and alcohol abuse. However, in the event a young person commits a crime, I will advocate that they avail themselves of Georgia’s First Offender Act to ensure youthful offenders are punished for their behavior but rewarded by having their criminal record remain clean of a felony conviction if they successfully complete their sentence. It is important to teach a young offender that they will be held accountable for their actions but, realize through the process, the importance of a clean criminal record to their future success. This type prosecution is designed to punish and educate with the goal of deterring future criminal behavior.
• Holly Veal

I will reorganize the Office of District Attorney to ensure that cases are assigned to a team consisting of an assistant district attorney, a victim’s advocate, and an investigator, and will remain with that team from arrest to conviction. This will not only increase accountability, but it will also serve to enhance the attorney’s knowledge of their cases and ensure better outcomes at trial. And increasing the number of convictions stemming from fair and ethical trial practices will make Henry County a safer place to live for both my family and all the families of Henry County.

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