LINCOLN COUNTY — Lincoln County District Attorney Michelle Branam is leaving her post on Sept. 11 for another job in Lincoln County — as Oregon Assistant Attorney General assigned to Lincoln County.
Branam, who became the county’s district attorney in February 2014, will work with the Oregon Department of Human Services in Lincoln County to assist the department’s employees to help children and families affected by crime in Lincoln County.
“While I was the DA, we’ve been centrally focused on how crime victims are impacted by the system,” Branam told the News-Times. “No matter what time of day it was, what hearing is happening, there was always someone here looking out for crime victims and making sure they’re working their way through the system with as much information as possible.”
An emphasis on children in the system was a point of focus for Branam in her time as district attorney. A domestic violence witness program was also instituted for children. That program is meant to assist children who otherwise wouldn’t get the help they need to process an experience where they witness violence at home without being the victim.
“So many times, people who have that trauma in their lives — when it’s not addressed in a way that’s meaningful, it can cause long-term side effects,” Branam said. “We decided as a group we would join forces. We now have a vehicle in Lincoln County to make sure every child is forensically interviewed if they witness [violence] or perceive it in any way.”
In Branam’s tenure as the district attorney, she focused on crime victims and their families, predominantly on children who are the victims or witnesses of violent crime. She plans to bring her experience helping local children and families to her next job, in which she’ll assist DHS workers in aiding children who are reportedly abused or neglected.
“What I’d like to see happen is find a way to make sure the caseworkers here have all the legal support they need to do their jobs,” Branam said. “I want them to be proactive on the cases and get families that intervention and get back on track. I’d like to be an asset and a resource for them.”
Rather than driving from Salem to assist with cases involving child abuse or neglect, Branam asked to be based in Lincoln County so she can continue to be ingrained in the community.
“I’m so committed to Lincoln County and want to live here and continue to be part of the community,” Branam said. “I’ll be embedded with DHS here, but as an employee of the Attorney General’s Office.”
Until another long-term district attorney for Lincoln County is appointed by Gov. Kate Brown, the governor will appoint an interim DA. That interim district attorney will then organize an appointment committee to select Branam’s replacement. After the committee and the governor receive applications for the job, they will review those applications, conduct background checks and interview members of the community here about each applicant, Branam said.
“If she decides she has a candidate she’d like to appoint, she’ll do that,” Branam said. “If she decides she doesn’t, they’ll wait until the next election.”
Employees of the Department of Human Services office in Newport weren’t available to talk to the News-Times Thursday.