Jacqueline Skye Gess says she enjoys serving as solicitor general and living in Baldwin County and she would like nothing more than continue what she has done since being named solicitor general.
If elected to that position later this year, she would serve for the next four years.
“I’ve been a prosecutor in Baldwin County since 2013 and I’m very familiar with the criminal justice system and this community,” said Gess.
Gess was hired in December 2013 as an assistant district attorney by Fred Bright, the late district attorney. She prosecuted criminal cases, including murder and aggravated assault, as well as ones related to gang violence.
In December 2018, Gess was appointed solicitor general of Baldwin County by former Gov. Nathan Deal following the unexpected death of Maxine Blackwell, who had served as solicitor general for many years.
Before Deal naming her to that position, Gess and other assistant district attorneys assisted in the solicitor’s office since District Attorney Stephen A. Bradley had been overseeing the functions of the office until a new solicitor general could be appointed.
Gess said she fell in love with the staff in the solicitor general’s office.
She said it felt a sense of family with them and began enjoying working more and more in the office. Gess said she felt she was making a difference in the lives of people simply by volunteering to help out from time to time.
Gess said she began talking with her husband about that role.
“I told him I thought this was really what I believe I needed to do, because I care, and I think that shows,” Gess said. “I have the heart to do this job. They (staff) in the solicitor’s office won me over.”
She said she is forever grateful to each of them.
Gess said she also wants to continue as solicitor general because she knows her role.
“I’m very familiar with the prosecution and process and kind of since I’ve been out and about talking with people and telling them what we’re doing in the solicitor’s office, it’s very interesting that a lot of people don’t understand or don’t know what a solicitor does,” said Gess.
She said since assuming the position of solicitor general she has attempted to explain to people that the solicitor general is a prosecutor.
“I’m responsible for prosecuting all misdemeanor crimes in Baldwin County and also enforcing all local ordinances,” Gess said.
Annually, she prosecutes approximately 2,000 misdemeanor cases in Baldwin County. And that doesn’t include the misdemeanor traffic citations.
“That 2,000 cases includes all of our domestic violence cases, property crimes, DUIs and serious traffic offenses, but it doesn’t account for speeding tickets, failure to stop at stop signs, or some of the animal cruelty cases that are handled through Baldwin County Magistrate Court,” Gess said.
With her new job, she fields a lot of phone calls and some of those come during the middle of the night.
“I have to answer questions from officers at 1 or 2 it the morning, and sometimes it even requires me to get up, putting on some clothes and driving from my home on the eastern side of Baldwin County down to my office at the courthouse in Milledgeville,” Gess said, noting that the job sometimes requires having to place victims in safe houses or a shelter.
Once Gess was named the county’s new solicitor general, she and her husband, Josh, moved from their farm home in neighboring Hancock County to Baldwin County.
“I wanted to move to Baldwin County because I’ve been invested in this county since 2013,” Gess said, noting it was a decision that she and her husband made together.
The couple own a farm, J&J Cattle Company, which is spread over property in Hancock, Glascock and Green counties. They have about 500 head of cattle. The couple are members of the Georgia Farm Bureau in Hancock County, as well as the Georgia Cattlemen’s Association. They are members of Pierce Memorial United Methodist Church in Hancock County.
Since moving to Baldwin County, they also visit several other churches.
Gess, who qualified as a Republican candidate, believes like other local political candidates that the office of solicitor general should be non-partisan, “because this job requires that I uphold the law and the Constitution of Georgia and the United States.”
She added that she represents all people, no matter who they are, where they come from, or what they believe.
The election for solicitor general in Baldwin County will be decided by the voters on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Gess is being challenged for the position by Hoganne Harrison, a local attorney, who qualified to seek election to the office last week as a Democratic candidate.
“I’m asking the people of this county to select the person — not the political party — who they feel is the most qualified to do this job,” Gess said. “I want them to look at the names of who is running for this office, and to determine who the best person is for this job. Obviously, I believe the best person is me because I’ve been a prosecutor since 2013. And I’ve been through many trials. I’ve sat on trials with Mr. [Fred] Bright and Mr. [Stephen] Bradley. I’ve tried murder trials with Mr. Bradley, and I understand how to prosecute a case.”
As solicitor general, Gess said she sometimes sees men and women who have never before been arrested.
Gess said she believes her job is to look at the person on an all-around basis.
“There are a lot of solicitors who will not talk to defendants, but I believe that’s something that’s not a good thing,” Gess said. “I talk to everybody. If a defendant wants to come in and talk about a case, I’m more than happy to sit down and explain all of their rights to them.”
It’s a way of getting to know more about the person, she explained.
“And we are able to give them a second chance,” she added. “Sometimes people make very bad mistakes, but we’ve been developing programs the last two years to make sure we give people those second chances.”
She said her office has an excellent pre-trial diversion program, where if individuals complete it, they receive a formal dismissal of the case from their record. There are also programs where individuals attend classes for anger management.
“That can help them with life-planning,” Gess said. “We enter into those kinds of agreements with individuals in hopes that they will be successful.”
Her office also is involved in a teen dating violence awareness program through the Baldwin County School District and she believes it’s making a difference, too.
Gess said she strongly believes that everyone has a right to have their voice heard and that they can do that during the early voting process and on Election Day.
“I want the people of this county to know that this is the people’s court,” Gess said of the solicitor general’s office. “State Court is all about the people. We have so many people’s lives that we impact. I know that and it’s such a huge responsibility. And it’s one I didn’t take lightly when I sought the appointment, because I understood what Mrs. Blackwell had built and the lives she impacted and touched during her entire career. She truly built a tremendous foundation.”