Deputy Missoula County Attorney Jason Marks announced this week that he will run for the county attorney's office position now held by incumbent Fred Van Valkenburg.

Marks, a democrat like Van Valkenburg, said on Tuesday, November 19, that he believes he can make positive changes in the county attorney's office.

"One area I think we can improve is our communication with the public, as well as with law enforcement, crime victims and some other areas that have been issues in the recent past," Marks said. "I also think we can make some improvements in how the office functions with policies and procedures that will make the office run more effectively."

Van Valkenburg made headlines last year when he flatly refused to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice investigation into sexual assaults in Missoula, stating in no uncertain terms that they had no right or reason to examine the cases being investigated by his office. Marks said he understood Van Valkenburg's strident response, which he maintains to this day.

"I understand where Fred was coming from with that, because the reality is that our office does not discriminate against women or any other group," Marks said. "That being said, I am certainly of the belief that if somebody has an idea about how we could be doing things better, whether it's the DOJ or anybody else, I'm certainly happy to hear it and implement changes that would make things better."

Marks went on to say that he wants to mend fences with the DOJ for a more cordial relationship in the future.

"I do have a problem that they think that we were somehow discriminating, but I would like to move past that and any other outstanding issues so that we can move forward and begin doing some more positive things," Marks said.

Marks said he communicated very clearly to Van Valkenburg that he intended to run for the office.

"I told him some time ago that I intended to run and he's been very supportive," Marks said. "We had a good conversation about the fact that I would be taking some positions that are different from his. He said he understood that, and hoped I would bring my own ideas to the office to make things better, just as he had done when he took office."

Marks has been with the office for nearly seven years after working in the public defender's office, and was recently promoted to assistant chief criminal deputy attorney.

Deputy County Attorney Jason Marks: