Art Curtis decides not to run in 2010

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Longtime county prosecutor supports Curt Wyrick’s bid

By John Branton

Columbian staff writer

Art Curtis, Clark County’s elected prosecuting attorney for nearly 29 years, announced Thursday that he plans to step down at the end of his term in December 2010.

Curtis gave no reason for his decision to leave office in 12 months, but said in a news release, “I may retire or pursue other interests, depending on what opportunities may arise.” Curtis will turn 62 years old next year, according to voter records.

In addition, Curtis said his longtime chief deputy prosecutor, Curt Wyrick, intends to run for the position.

“He has my full support and is the best person to maintain the high standards of this office during these extraordinary economic times,” Curtis said in the statement.

Wyrick, 60, has been chief deputy prosecutor since 1990 and has spent his entire career with the prosecutor’s office. He was hired in 1977.

Wyrick has served in the office’s child support and criminal divisions, and also has represented the county and elected officials in the civil division.

Asked why the decision was announced now, Wyrick said it’s because Curtis recently decided not to seek re-election. His salary this year is $148,832.

Wyrick said he’ll run because of his experience and support from the community. If elected, Wyrick said, he’ll face continuing challenges with budget cuts and changing times.

Already, he said, “We’re in the process of reorganizing the office to deal with less staff.”

While taking hits totaling $1.8 million, he said, the prosecutor’s office has delayed filling positions and encouraged job sharing. Two attorneys have been laid off.

“Every day you sort of look around and say, ‘What’s going to happen next?’” Wyrick said. “We’re going to have to redefine how we do the office.”

To help local merchants survive, Wyrick said, he plans to add more focus on pursuing customers who write bad checks. He also wants to prosecute more people who abuse elderly people physically or financially.

“I think we owe them,” he said of senior residents. “These are the people who built the community, built the nation.”

Wyrick said deputy prosecutors also must devote time to jailing career criminals who commit a huge percentage of local crimes, and must go after significant prison sentences.

In addition, he said, there’s Clark County’s problem with gang violence.

“We need to refocus on gangs and make sure we stop them before they proliferate,” he said.

The Columbian was not able to reach Curtis immediately for comment.

John Branton: 360-735-4513 or john.branton@columbian.com.