The two candidates running to serve as Prince William County’s commonwealth’s attorney said they would make job openings more accessible to the public.
Republican Mike May and Democratic Amy Asworth are running for the open seat on the ballot in Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park on Nov. 5.
The commonwealth’s attorney’s office budget for fiscal year 2020, which started July 1, is more than $6.6 million, according to the county’s budget.
The office prosecutes criminal and traffic cases in General District Court, criminal and delinquency cases in the Juvenile and Domestic Relations District Court and all felony cases in Circuit Court.
May has been a trial lawyer for 15 years in Virginia and served as Occoquan District supervisor from 2007 to 2016. He lost a race for commonwealth’s attorney in 2015 to incumbent Paul Ebert, a Democrat who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election after serving as the county’s top prosecutor since 1968.
Ashworth has been a lawyer for 24 years, including 11 years in the commonwealth’s attorney’s office handling special victims cases.
If elected, both candidates said they would like to improve the office’s hiring process, in part to increase staff diversity. May said he would make sure anyone can apply for job openings in the office. He also said he would create a pay scale for office employees so that the office can have a more predictable budget planning process.
He said the office’s budget for salaries has increased by more than $1 million from five years ago. According to the county’s fiscal year 2020 budget, the county has allocated more than $6.1 million to salaries this fiscal year, compared to $5.1 million that was allocated for salaries in fiscal year 2016.
Ashworth said she would make it a priority to hire more diverse staff by making job openings accessible to the general public. She also said she would reach out to minority bar associations and visit law schools to recruit. Ashworth also said she would start an internship to increase interest in being a prosecutor.
If elected, May said he would establish open file discovery, which would ensure evidence is shared with defense lawyers to increase transparency.
He said this will protect defendant’s right to due process.
May said his experience as county supervisor will help him plan the commonwealth’s attorney’s office budget. Ashworth said she has overseen a budget as managing partner at a law firm.
Both candidates have a vision for how they would lead as commonwealth’s attorney.
May said he would also like to engage with the community through an open door policy and would hold town hall events to discuss crimes that are rising in number and ways the community can help address those issues.
He also said if elected he would have a financial audit conducted of the office’s budget to see if there are any inefficiencies.
Ashworth said if elected, she would restructure the office to appoint staff to cover violent crimes; special victims; special investigations such as narcotics, gangs and human trafficking; juvenile cases; and domestic violence. Ashworth said this structure would ensure consistent focus on these areas.
Ashworth said she believes in putting the right people in the right positions and letting them do their job. She said her job would be to make sure her staff has the resources they need to do their job.
Ashworth said she wrote a mission statement that she would establish if elected that will be the guiding principle for the office.
Part of it reads, “As public servants, we will vigorously enforce our laws, pursue the truth, and deal openly and honestly with the community, law enforcement agencies, and victims of crime.”
As a leader, May said he is interested in working with a team and fostering collaboration.
He said he would share credit for work and make sure everyone is working on the same page. He said he would maintain an open door policy with his staff in addition to the public.