Family members, friends, work colleagues, supporters and several local elected officials joined Suzanne West at Mesquite Creek Outfitters Sunday as she announced her intention to seek the position of 63rd Judicial District Attorney in 2020.
West, a Republican who is currently employed as the Del Rio city attorney, was introduced by her husband, Derome West, a helicopter pilot for the Texas Department of Public Safety.
“This is a great community, and we want to see that Del Rio remains one of the safest places to raise our children, and that’s only possible through strong prosecution,” West said.
Danny Faz, pastor of Hope City Church, gave an invocation, and West played a video recorded by rock legend Ted Nugent endorsing Suzanne.
Derome West also introduced the first speaker, Joe Soane, a prosecutor who is also a licensed peace officer and who worked with West when she was an assistant district attorney at the 63rd District Attorney’s Office. Soane praised West as “a fabulous prosecutor.”
He recounted how prepared West was for the last case they tried together, a murder case that resulted in a jury verdict of guilty.
“One of the reasons why it’s so critical that you have the correct personality in your DA’s office is that Texas is a death penalty state. The consequences are huge. When you’re touched by crime and you have contact with the district attorney’s office, you’re going through some of the most traumatic, some of the most life-changing things, and Suzanne handles that with such grace and such ability. This is the person that you want in the courtroom representing you,” he said.
Leisha Ashley, a friend of the Wests, spoke to the audience about West’s personal life, her ability to balance work and family and her desire to do what’s right.
“I know her love of this community will drive her to be the best that she can be, and we support her 100 percent,” Ashley said.
Another friend, Ross Fischer, also spoke on West’s behalf. Fischer has served as chairman of the Texas Ethics Commission, has taught at the University of Texas School of Law, and served as disciplinary counsel for the State Bar of Texas and as the elected Kendall County Attorney.
He worked with West as a law student and shortly after she became an attorney and recalled West’s tenacity and willingness to fight for crime victims.
“Suzanne, when confronted by an obstacle or a setback, she’s not discouraged, she’s motivated. She doubles down, and she finds a way around that obstacle. That is a rare trait, and it’s an important trait in a prosecutor,” Fischer said.
“Suzanne works hard, and she sees things through until the end. She is able to motivate and inspire the people around her to do their best. She recognizes the big picture and how a prosecutor can make a positive difference in the community, and we learn that she is committed to protecting the most vulnerable members of the community, those who can’t protect themselves. What more could you ask for in a district attorney?” Fischer said.
West spoke last, thanking everyone for attending.
She said her previous work in the district attorney’s office and her eight years as city attorney have prepared her to serve as district attorney.
West said she decided to run for the position after the victims in two family violence cases she encountered “weren’t getting the help they needed.”
The cases prompted her to look up some statistics, she said.
“Maybe these two cases are outliers. Maybe these two cases I saw aren’t the norm. . . Unfortunately, that’s not what I saw. I can’t tell you what I would or wouldn’t do in a specific case, but I will tell you that 88 percent of the child sexual assault or indecency cases in Val Verde County will not be dismissed, 87 percent of the sexual assault cases in Val Verde County will not be deferred or dismissed under my tenure, 66 percent of aggravated assaults and robberies, 69 percent of auto thefts and 64 percent of the drug sale and manufacture cases will not be deferred or dismissed,” West said.
West said after her speech she found the statistics on the web site of the Office of Court Administration for the years 2017-2019.
“These numbers make it clear that someone needs to step in and make some changes,” she added.
West pledged she would strive for excellence and said she has devised a plan because the statistics she had found “started weighing on my heart.”
“First, we need to pay attention to victims and stand in their shoes. . .The second thing is prep the cases as though they are going to go to trial . . . The third thing is that we need to eliminate in our community the expectation that we will have the majority of our cases deferred or dismissed,” West said.