Way back in February, Lauren Kreinbrink declared her intent to run to be the Mason County Prosecuting Attorney.
That was before COVID-19. That was before the murder of George Floyd and subsequent calls by some around the nation to defund the police. And that’s led to a very long and different campaign path.
Kreinbrink, a Ludington native and currently the chief assistant prosecuting attorney, is running as a Republican to become the next county prosecutor. She has an Aug. 4 primary opponent, Chad DeRouin, to take the position now held by a future retiring Paul Spaniola.
Kreinbrink said she’s taken to social media to get her message out for her campaign and she’s done interviews with the media as well as some advertising. However, the question as to whether to go door-to-door in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic was something that took some time to decide what to do.
“We decided that we wanted to do that. I wanted people to have a chance (to meet me and) not having these events, the parade not going on, I wanted opportunities to meet people,” Kreinbrink said. “We have been going door-to-door. We’ve been wearing masks even in the 90-degree heat. “Basically, we’re wearing masks, we’ll stop and knock on the door and step 6 feet or so back and so far, the response has been really receptive. People appreciate that visit. I’m glad we were able to prioritize safety but yet have some face-to-face contact with the voters.”
When Kreinbrink set out to campaign in February, she had some ideas that she wanted to implement based on what she was experiencing while working within the county prosecutor’s office. Since February, while meeting with voters, she’s learned of other issues that she believes she needs to do.
“The issues I wanted to fix at the outset of my campaign were reasons I heard (from) a lot of people interested about or concerned about. The amount of plea bargainings. The treatment of sexual predators, habitual offenders,” she said.
But it was the visibility of the prosecutor in public was something she wants to do more.
“I’ve learned that people want to know their prosecutor. They want to more about the system that processes and works with victims and processes criminal cases and how that all works,” Kreinbrink said. “I’ve learned that people want to know who their prosecutor is and see that interaction in that community.”
While dealing with campaigning in a pandemic, the issues surrounding the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Kreinbrink said she worked with the issue thanks in part to her work with the police academy at West Shore Community College.
“I know in the police academy, we were dealing with (coronavirus), we were dealing with the George Floyd murder, and we had comprehensive discussions about it,” she said. “All of the recruits that I talked to, in light of the circumstances, they still wanted to be in law enforcement. They still wanted to make a positive impact on the communities they were going to.”
She said the defunding the police movement would be the wrong way to go, and it would change how policing works.
“I think this defunding the police movement puts our law enforcement or potentially put our law enforcement in this difficult place of being reactive as opposed to proactive. I think a lot of people don’t realize how much good, there are good police officers out there who want to serve their communities,” Kreinbrink said. “I think the real change should not come from defunding the police but implementing more training up front as to inherent biases that we have and really tailoring that to the community that these officers are going to be work with.”
Not only is Spaniola retiring, the prosecutor’s office could see more changes in January if John Middlebrook, an assistant prosecutor, is elected to be the 79th District Court Judge. He is running against Glenn Jackson III in November for the position. No matter what, there will be a time of transition in the office.
“Communication is key. I can say I’ve been picturing what it would look like if I were to be elected. I can say I already have people in mind that I would want to reach out to,” she said. “But overall, communicating and sitting down with staff members and working out how we’re going to work together.”
Even as staffing is ironed out, Kreinbrink said communicating with the entire staff within the office is critical.
“Keeping everyone on the same page and informed as much as possible will make for a smoother transition in the end,” she said.
Kreinbrink said what sets her apart in the race is that not only is she from Mason County, but she currently works with the police departments in the county already.
“I feel that I already have those existing relationships with law enforcement. At the same time, I know what their frustrations are. I know what their concerns are. I also feel I have a good relationship with our office staff (and) our judges,” she said.
And, she’s been working to be a prosecutor throughout her career, even going as far back as when she was earning her degrees.
“I’ve worked over 3 1/2 years as a prosecutor. But prior to that, I worked as a legal intern in the Mason County prosecutor’s office, the Ingham County prosecutor’s office and in the Manistee County prosecutor’s office before I was hired,” she said. “Even in law school, I worked to represent clients in the Michigan Department of Corrections. I have that well-rounded experience. I’ve wanted to be a prosecutor my entire life.”