Prosecutor marks 1st year on job

Clarissa Kell | Daily Press Delta County Prosecutor Brett Gardner poses for a photo in the Delta County Circuit Courtroom Wednesday. Gardner has been the prosecutor in Delta County for over a year.

ESCANABA — It has been a little over a year since Brett Gardner officially started as the new Delta County prosecutor. Gardner has made it his priority to have a team in the prosecutor’s office dedicated to meeting the needs of the community, to work closely with the law enforcement agencies and hold people accountable to the crimes they’ve committed.

“Previous prosecutors have done a good job and each one has done it differently and I’m not an exception to that. My approach is multifaceted and has addressed — or hopefully addressed — many areas of the criminal justice system,” he said.

Gardner explained when he first started on June 5, 2018, he focused on the prosecutor’s office to make sure it was meeting the needs of the community. He said the office is for the community, so he organized the office with people who shared that vision.

“I had a unique situation I was presented with and that was the entire office was changing. Many people had left and when I started several people were leaving. So I was left with an office that didn’t have some positions filled and that the people that were here were either brand new or had about a year to a year and a half experience,” he said.

When it came to filling positions in the office, Gardner said he looked for people focused on the community, understood the necessary support needed for victims, and understood the need to work as a team unit not just in the office but with all law enforcement agencies.

“I was lucky to have been able to find those type of people to work with,” he said.

According to Gardner, it was with that staff that they’ve been fortunate enough to build a prosecutor’s office that has its priorities straight.

As Delta County prosecutor, Gardner is the head law enforcement officer in the county. He explained when he first took over he reached out and met with the area police directors, sheriff and commander of the local Michigan State Police post to let them know they had his support.

“(I) also let them know with my words and my actions, that we were going to support them in the criminal justice system,” he said.

After reaching out to all the different law enforcement agencies, Gardner said he soon found out how great of a group of men and women that were protecting the community of Delta County.

“Their hard work and assertiveness on the street has provided our office with the tools we’ve needed to make an impact,” he said.

The changes made in the prosecutor’s office has created an efficiency that allows Gardner and Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Lauren Wickman to focus on their job, which is advising police officers on legal issues, evaluating warrants, and enforcing the laws in court.

“I evaluate almost every case with my fellow prosecutor so that we can make informed decisions that will have the biggest impact for our community. We’ve worked closely with the police departments including UPSET, … the drug enforcement team, to target persons in our community that are affecting themselves, their families, (and) more importantly people of Delta County. This team approach has been effective in sending many of those people to prison. All of those who have been sent to prison have earned it. You never go to prison by making one mistake, you go to prison by making many,” he said.

He added together with law enforcement and the judges, they are now provided the tools to send a message to the community that those who chose the lifestyle of breaking the law will not be tolerated. He said that does not mean that those who deserve a break wouldn’t receive one.

In addition to focusing on serious crimes in Delta County, Gardner said his office also made it very clear that they understand quality of life and that other crimes are just as important.

“It is important for the community to understand that all of us in law enforcement want to make Delta County and their neighborhoods safe. The community are our eyes and ears and they should feel free to report those people in their neighborhood that effect their quality of life,” he said.

Delta County has issues just like any other community, however, Gardner said the issues in Delta County are being dealt with.

He said Delta County is a beautiful, business-strong and family-oriented community.

“It’s the type of county with its valuable resources that people visit and not only enjoy but want to come back to. That is the type of environment all of us in law enforcement want to maintain and that’s what drove me to come back to prosecution and become a part of this great Delta County community,” Gardner said.