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Friends & Neighbors - Meet county's new legal eagles -- Miller, Jacobs join Becker County Attorney's Office

DETROIT LAKES - The Becker County Attorney's Office has seen a lot of changes this past year.

When then-County Attorney Joseph Evans was appointed to the Seventh District bench by Gov. Tim Pawlenty last fall, Mike Fritz, the assistant county attorney, was appointed to succeed him.

With the prior resignation of another assistant county attorney, Jim Donehower, that left the office with two vacancies to be filled. But Fritz didn't have to look very far to find a pair of qualified candidates.

Moorhead native Kevin Miller, who had been operating his own legal practice in Detroit Lakes, and Frazee native Jennifer Jacobs, who had been working as a law clerk for Judge Thomas Schroeder (Evans' predecessor), joined the county attorney's office three months ago.

Though their paths to that office have been quite different, both have strong roots in Becker County.

Miller, who is married and lives in Hawley -- where his three children attend school -- grew up spending summers at his parents' cabin on Lake Maud near Detroit Lakes.

A graduate of Moorhead High School and Concordia College, he left Minnesota to attend law school at DePaul University in Chicago, graduating in 1998.

"I wanted to return to Minnesota when I was done (with law school)," Miller said.

So he accepted a position with Zenas Baer & Associates in Hawley. Though his duties were mainly in the areas of criminal defense and civil cases -- including a stint as public defender for White Earth -- Miller also served as a prosecutor for the City of Hawley.

"I opened my own practice in Detroit Lakes on June 1, 2007," he said.

But Miller actually found he preferred the prosecutorial side of the law, so when a position opened up at the Becker County Attorney's Office, "I jumped at the chance," he said.

His duties with Becker County include handling "adult misdemeanor and gross misdemeanor prosecution, juvenile cases and child support, civil commitments and whatever else, as needed," Miller said.

Though he and his wife Carol continue to live in Hawley with their children -- Kaitlyn, 17, Christopher, 12, and Alexis, 6 -- they still spend a lot of time at his parents' cabin near Detroit Lakes during the summer.

"Our kids and their (school) events keep us pretty busy, but we enjoy spending our summers at the lakes, hanging out and taking it easy," he said, adding that he also enjoys the shorter commute.

Jacobs is also a familiar face to area residents, having grown up in Frazee and graduated from Frazee High School in 1997.

"After high school, I went to Jamestown (N.D.) College, and graduated with a double major in criminal justice and history/political science, with a minor in sociology," she said.

"I always knew I wanted to go into law," Jacobs continued. "It was always on my radar."

But her interest was more on the prosecutorial/governmental side, so while she was attending the University of North Dakota School of Law in Grand Forks, "I tried to focus my internships and summer jobs in the government sector."

After graduating from law school, she got a job working as a law clerk for Judge Schroeder in Detroit Lakes.

"It was really surprising to me that I ended up finding a job back in this area," she said. "I was lucky Judge Schroeder hired me, so I got to come back home. That was nice."

Jacobs stayed with Judge Schroeder until his retirement last October, then worked briefly for Judge Evans until starting work at the county attorney's office on Jan. 1.

"I'm really enjoying it," she said. "It's been a real culmination of everything I've been working toward. I couldn't be happier to be given the opportunity to work for the county where I was born and raised -- it's an honor."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454