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Passing the Torch: DA Paul Gallegos looks back at time in office

EUREKA- “It is a job that grows on you in both directions I would say. The longer you're in it, the more you are pulled to leave in a way, and also the more you're pulled to stay,” said outgoing District Attorney Paul Gallegos.

After 12 years as Humboldt County’s top prosecutor, Gallegos is passing on the torch.

“What really brought it home to me was my wife and I's oldest kid getting ready to graduate and go to college, because despite all those things, the ties to the office and the community, when we reached that stage, suddenly he was going to be gone and I realized all the things that I had wanted to do with him that I didn't do. Because I’ve been busy,” Gallegos said.

And he has been busy. In his time as District Attorney, Gallegos has gone up against giants. Taking on the Pacific Lumber Company in a massive fraud lawsuit just months into office and since has managed an office with budget that has continued to shrink.

“The DA’s office has experienced lots of cuts and Paul had to make do with a budget that kept shrinking and Paul prioritized the way that an elected official has the opportunity to prioritize. He did the best with what he could at the time,” said Humboldt County Undersheriff Bill Honsal, who worked under Gallegos for 7 years as his district attorney investigator.

But not everyone agreed with DA’s methods of management. Just one year into office Gallegos was slammed with a recall vote and later, two grand jury reports citing mismanagement and ineffectual leadership. Both of which, former Deputy District Attorney Paul Hagen says he saw every day for three years.

“His campaign rhetoric was about leading from the front and all of these things but when you’re not around and when you don’t give clear direction to your staff and when you show up unprepared in court and you have a lot of turnover in your staff because people are unhappy with you, that I think alone is a clear sign that you aren’t managing people well,” Hagen said.

But Gallegos disagrees.

“This office has always functioned. We've always prosecuted people,” Gallegos said. “We’ve always reached out, expanded what we did for this community, and to me it's like well if that's mismanagement then we probably need more. Because we've done a heck of a job I think.”

And now as he prepares to leave office, handing the reigns to incoming District Attorney Maggie Fleming, Gallegos departs with advice to his successor that he’s been living since day one.

“You will hit bumps, you will stumble, you will make mistakes, and that's part of the process,” Gallegos said. “But, know why you're doing what you're doing and who you're doing it for and if it's them instead of you, you're probably doing the right thing.”