Posted 1/22/14 (Wed)
By Stephanie Norman
Farmer Staff Writer
It’s official. Jacob Rodenbiker took an oath of office Monday morning as the new full-time McKenzie County State’s Attorney. Never before has the county had a full-time employee for this position. Former part-time State’s Attorney Dennis Johnson had served the county since 1982, but resigned in September after learning the county commissioners would seek a full-time attorney.
Though this transition has not been an easy one for Johnson nor Rodenbiker, they are both doing what they feel is in the best interest of their personal goals as well as the community. Rodenbiker has uprooted his family to take on this job offer. His wife, Molly, who was previously a preschool teacher, and their seven- month-old son, have left behind their home to allow Rodenbiker to fulfill his ‘dream job.’
“I am looking forward to working with the community,” Rodenbiker said. “This move felt right for my family and I feel it is my duty to take this job opportunity. I am very motivated to offer my best efforts to the county as the state’s attorney.”
With a growing population in McKenzie County, the caseloads have been on the incline. The county commissioners are positive Rodenbiker is capable of handling the county’s needs. He has experience working as a prosecutor in Miami-Dade County, Fla., for a year-and-a-half; an assistant state’s attorney for three years in Burleigh County; and he has been with Vogel Law Firm for 16 months.
It was in October that Rodenbiker came to Watford City for a hearing at the courthouse. He ran into County Auditor Linda Svihovec and she mentioned the county was still looking for a full-time state’s attorney. She urged him to consider the opportunity.
Rodenbiker and his wife weighed out the short and long-term benefits, at which time they decided he would apply for the position. On Dec. 17, Rodenbiker was offered the job.
“There are some things that need to be built up from the bottom,” Rodenbiker said. “But we are fortunate to have the district judge chambered right here in Watford City. I am in a position now that if the county has questions, they know where they can find me and I’m accessible at any time. This is a great benefit for everyone in the county.”
During the oath of office, McKenzie County Commissioner Roger Chinn said to Rodenbiker: “This is the first time we will have a full-time state’s attorney sitting at the table with us at county meetings. We are glad you’re on board.”
According to McKenzie County Commissioner Ron Anderson, the caseload has nearly quadrupled in the last handful of years. He said the severity of the cases is also becoming much more in-depth and difficult.
“The preparation for our cases is taking a longer time than it used to,” Anderson said. “We need someone full time because we don’t have the experience and we need to make sure we do them right.”
One of Rodenbiker’s goals is to get the criminal caseload up to date.
“With me here, we will have extra days to hold court,” Rodenbiker said. “I will continue working with other attorneys until we get the criminal caseload under control.”
After District Judge Robin Schmidt and Anderson swore in Rodenbiker on Monday, he expressed his excitement and gratitude by thanking his family and new associates. Rodenbiker said his new legal assistants, Silvia Jacobs and Sharon Lane, have already been of great help with the transition.
“I am very grateful for all of the support I’ve had,” Rodenbiker said. “The best support has definitely been from my wife, Molly. She is behind me in everything I do, which makes me all the more eager to fulfill the duties of this position.”
Rodenbiker received his undergraduate from the University of Notre Dame, and his graduate degree from the University of Minnesota School of Law. He plans to share his expertise with McKenzie County long term.