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Posted June 3, 2011 | comments 1 Comment

Commonwealth's attorney to step down

Mitchell, 68, says he won't seek re-election in November after four terms

By Preston Knight - pknight@nvdaily.com

WOODSTOCK -- Shenandoah County Commonwealth's Attorney Albert T. Mitchell will retire at the end of the year.

Mitchell, 68, said he will finish his current term, which is his third consecutive and fourth overall, and not seek the Republican nomination for November's election. He was elected commonwealth's attorney in 1999, the same year he was appointed to the position.

Mitchell served as an assistant commonwealth's attorney beginning in 1990. Before that, he was in private practice, and also served a four-year term as commonwealth's attorney in the 1970s, when it was a part-time job.

Mitchell will remain Woodstock's town attorney, a role he has held since 1970.

"Wonderful person and an intelligent, consistent prosecutor," said James Allamong, a local attorney for nearly 30 years. "I mean, this guy knew the law. ... He was a good man and a helluva prosecutor, and I could always count on him to give good advice. You just don't always have that."

A native of Alexandria, Mitchell said he knew when he was in high school that he wanted to pursue a career in law. His older brother, Robert, is an attorney in Winchester, and the two competed on the football field as both worked on their education -- Robert Mitchell at Virginia Military Institute and Albert Mitchell at the University of Richmond, where he was a tackle.

The younger Mitchell received his law degree from Washington & Lee University in 1967, and then came to Woodstock to enter private practice. As a prosecutor, he said he enjoys the legal questions that arise out of every case, even if it's not a high-profile one.

"There are decisions you have to make every day in district court. Someone running a stop sign, reckless driving, DUI; there are so many different kinds of evidence," Mitchell said. "No two cases have ever been identical."

One rising trend in the commonwealth's caseload is the amount of violent crime, particular among younger defendants, Mitchell said. Drugs appear to be involved in everything that is prosecuted, he added.

Mitchell's office has three assistant commonwealth's attorneys, and while the increasing workload warrants additional help, no new positions are expected, he said. His staff through the years has included Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock.

"I owe Mr. Mitchell a debt of gratitude for giving me the opportunity to work as a prosecutor in the community where I grew up," Gilbert said in an email. "I have great respect for Al and wish him well in retirement."

Woodstock Mayor Jeremy McCleary said he will seek the Republican nomination for commonwealth's attorney, and would be filing with the Shenandoah County registrar soon. The chairman of the county Republican committee, as well as prosecutor for Strasburg, he said he could not serve as mayor and commonwealth's attorney.

McCleary, whose wife is one of Mitchell's assistants, said Mitchell was a "great human being."

"He's a very smart, intelligent man and just a very good guy," he said.

The deadline for candidates to get on November's ballot is 7 p.m. Aug. 23, which is later than normal because of redistricting, Registrar Lisa McDonald said. Among those up for re-election, Sheriff Timothy C. Carter and Sonya Williams-Giersch, the District 6 School Board representative, had already submitted paperwork as of Thursday afternoon.

1 Comment | Leave a comment

    I don't know much about Mr Mitchell. The county is a safe place and I wish him well. I think its sad that people can't stay in their job that they were elected for. First we have the police chief who runs for sherriff after only being police cheif for a year and now the mayor is running for something else after he has been mayor for less than a year. these people need to think about their communities before they think about themselves.

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