Newly sworn-in Delaware County Prosecutor Melissa Schiffel said Monday that the office has been a career goal of hers, and she’s looking forward to engaging with the community.
Schiffel was sworn in Friday afternoon, replacing Acting Delaware County Prosecutor Christopher D. Betts, who was appointed to fill the vacancy when former prosecutor Carol O’Brien resigned from the position to take a job with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
Schiffel said she grew up in Dublin and graduated from Dublin Coffman High School before moving on to attend Ohio University and Ohio Northern University, College of Law.
Schiffel began practicing law at the Wood County Prosecutor’s Office before taking a position as a special prosecutor at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
As a special prosecutor, Schiffel would step in to prosecute a case if there was a local conflict of interest in the case. Schiffel said the position required her to travel as far as Williams County in the northwest corner of the state.
“Crime is everywhere. It is across the state,” Schiffel said. “As a prosecutor, you have to understand how it’s going to impact the state and the particular community you are in. As a special prosecutor, sometimes that can be a challenge, but at the same time, you learn how to relate to everybody in the state. You learn about community values, and they are different from Williams County to Franklin County. You really learn how to be a good listener to your community where you’ve been invited in to prosecute so you can achieve justice for that community.”
Schiffel left the attorney general’s office in 2016 when she took the position of Delaware city prosecutor. Schiffel said the biggest change moving from prosecuting only felonies to prosecuting misdemeanors was the caseload.
“The most surprising I would say is the volume of misdemeanors,” she said. “In the city prosecutor’s office you are in court almost all day, every day, prosecuting thousands of cases a year. So managing the sheer volume and being sure that I could be a manager, a leader, and a team player to make sure I could manage that volume.”
Schiffel said her background in the special prosecutor’s office gave her the confidence to handle the caseload.
When O’Brien departed the prosecutor’s office in February, Schiffel said she was excited to apply for the position because it had been a goal for her.
“It’s always been a career goal,” Schiffel said. “From the minute I became an assistant county prosecutor in Wood County all the way to the Delaware City Prosecutor’s Office, being the county prosecutor has always been my goal, particularly now that I got to live and experience Delaware County. I got to know the law enforcement agencies, got to the know the community, and I’m raising my child here. It continued to be a goal.”
Schiffel said she believes O’Brien did “a wonderful job,” and she hopes to continue to engage and educate the community.
“My daughter is going to be four in June, and as a prosecutor, sometimes you can see the worst of the worst but also the best of the best,” Schiffel said. “I’ve been blessed in my career to work with county prosecutors that make a tremendous impact in their community and with their children. When I had my daughter, she gave me that perspective and framed it for me as ‘you’re a prosecutor but look at the good you can do for children,’ and I want to continue that.”
Schiffel said she wants to help with education and prevention with children to “ensure their future is the best that it can be.”
She added that she’d like to create a Youth Olympics program in Delaware County.
“This existed in Wood County, so it’s not my idea but it’s a program I believe in,” Schiffel said. “It’s a community event once a year, aimed towards fourth- and fifth-graders, and it’s a day of competition without conflict. The children are broken up into teams and go through different events and compete that way.”
Schiffel said the event is a “huge undertaking” and will take partnerships in the community.
“I just want to be a servant in our community,” she said. “I want to find out what other areas our community wants our prosecutor to serve in, and I want to be that prosecutor. I’m excited. Delaware County is a great place to live, a great place to work, and there are so many opportunities to do good.”
Schiffel will serve out the rest of O’Brien’s unexpired term, through November 2020, and have to campaign for the seat after that.
She lives in Galena with her husband, Nate, and their daughter, Perri.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.