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Jenny Oldham was 18 years old and a recent high school graduate in 1990 when she started working as a summer intern at the Hardin County Attorney’s Office. Seven years later, she joined the office as a full-time assistant prosecutor.
On Thursday, Oldham — now in the third year of her first term as county attorney — was named County Attorney of the Year during the annual Kentucky Prosecutors Conference in Lexington.
“Mrs. Oldham has worked in my courtroom for over 15 years and has always been a most professional prosecutor,” Hardin District Judge Kim Shumate wrote in an email. “Whether as a first assistant or now as the elected county attorney, she has never shied away from the toughest issues of our community.”
The Kentucky Prosecutors Advisory Council, which is part of the state Attorney General’s Office, honors a county attorney and commonwealth’s attorney each year during its conference. The council includes the state’s county and commonwealth attorneys and their assistant prosecutors.
“She does a terrific job for us in Hardin County and a lot of it goes unseen,” Hardin County Judge-Executive Harry Berry said.
Hardin Circuit Judge Ken Howard, a former county attorney, said the recognition speaks to improvements she has made to the office since her election in November 2010.
“Selfishly, I can say it was a good office when she was elected, but she has made substantial improvements beyond that,” Howard said. “The people of Hardin County should be proud.”
The Hardin County Attorney’s Office covers three primary areas: prosecution in Hardin District Court, collection of child support and providing legal counsel for county government, Howard said.
The office, which Oldham describes as “the largest law firm in Hardin County,” consists of seven full-time attorneys and one part-time and 32 additional employees.
Of the staff’s initiatives in the last year, Oldham considers the greatest to be prosecution of driving under the influence cases, she said, which are scientifically complicated. She added the county has remained at the “forefront” of prosecuting drug-impaired driving as well as drunken driving.
“It’s not just to be good but to be great,” she said about the office’s high standard for DUI prosecution. “We take the hard cases and try them.”
Other accomplishments, she said, include establishment of a monitoring program to ensure drivers convicted of failing to maintain insurance are compliant, and efforts made to collect child support payments outside of pursuing court action.
According to Shumate, Oldham has worked diligently to keep a “trained, competent, caring staff attorneys and staff members” and to work with local law enforcement to maintain excellence in district court.
“As a judge, I have had many opportunities over the years to visit other counties to preside and always find myself coming home thankful for the dedicated work of Mrs. Oldham and her staff,” Shumate said.
Berryinteracts with Oldham “virtually daily,” he said, seeking her legal counsel and opinion.
The judge-executive ventures only he and her administrative assistant, Robin Todd, know the true daily volume of matters Oldham examines and offers legal guidance on, he said. Berry added counsel is independent of the work she does in the legal system.
“I can’t think of anyone who comes close to her qualifications,” he said.
Oldham, who said she was “shocked” by Thursday’s award, intends to run for re-election in 2014.
“I’m just getting started,” said Oldham, who carries a list of things she’d like to “fix” or “do differently.”
Detective Sgt. Rex Allaman with the Hardin County Sheriff’s Office referred to Oldham as a “breath of fresh air” in prosecutorial circles. He said his professional history with her began when she passed the bar exam and started as a juvenile prosecutor in 1997.
“The tenacity she displayed then has not slowed down,” he said.
Sarah Bennett can be reached at 270-505-1750 or email@example.com.