Missoula attorney Josh Van de Wetering has thrown his hat into the political ring, declaring his intention to run for the office of Missoula County Attorney.

According to Van de Wetering, the Missoula County Attorney's office has two main functions.

"The office represents the state of Montana in the prosecution of criminal cases, especially felony cases, and they also represent the civil side of the county's business," Van de Wetering said on Friday, November 29. "The public always has a right to expect accessibility from the county attorney, explanations from the county attorney to the degree he can give them, and the public always has a right to expect the county attorney to listen to their needs.The county attorney needs to strive to treat every citizen completely fairly and equally to the best of his or her ability."

Van de Wetering explains his reasons for running for the office.

"I think I have the right experience at the right time for the office," Van de Wetering said. "I knew that Fred (Van Valkenburg) was going to retire, so I looked at my experience and my career and I think I have something to offer."

Van de Wetering said he has experience in both sides of the courtroom.

"I was a prosecutor for 15 years, and I've been a practicing criminal defense attorney for about five and a half years now," Van de Wetering said. "I've been an adjunct professor at the law school for the last 12 years or so, plus I have a civil practice. I've from Missoula, it's my hometown and I'm very interested in public service, I like it, because it's rewarding in a way that nothing else is."

Van de Wetering said he agreed for the most part with Van Valkenburg's staunch refusal to cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice and it's demands to investigate the county attorney's office over the issue of sexual assaults in Missoula.

"Fred was really right, and that's the thing to keep in mind," Van de Wetering said. "He's right on the law and he's right to protect what I think is the authority of the citizens of Missoula county that is exercised through the county attorney's office. The specter of the U.S. DOJ stepping in to take over is one that should worry everybody. But, what gets lost in all of that is are we doing all we can to protect rape victims, and all victims through the county attorney's office? I maintain the stance that Fred has made not to turn over any authority to the federal government, but at the same time, I'd like to know what they know, and Fred hasn't had much luck in getting that out of them. I would like to contact them and say, look, if you're really here to help us, I'm all ears, because we'll take advice and help from anybody. But, if you here just to make political hay, I'm saying no thanks."

Van de Wetering knows there are already two individuals who have also declared their intention to run for office, current chief deputy Jason Marks, and former chief deputy Kirsten Pabst. Van de Wetering says he tops both when it comes to experience.

"I think highly of both of them, and I hope for a very clean race, but they just haven't done the variety of things I've done and in some respects to the depth I've done. I've been a part of the federal government and worked against the federal government. I've worked in state courts all over the area for both the prosecution and defense side, so my breadth of experience is what I would say is the real difference."

The first day that a candidate may file for public office in the state of Montana is January 9.

County Attorney Candidate Josh Van de Wetering