23 to watch in 2023: Carla Rodriguez, Sonoma County’s District Attorney-elect

A veteran deputy district attorney, Carla Rodriguez ran unopposed in the June primary and is set to take over as county’s top prosecutor from Jill Ravitch, who has served three terms.|

For more people to watch in 2023, go here.

Name: Carla Rodriguez

Title or position: Sonoma County District Attorney-elect

On the job since: Rodriguez has worked in the Sonoma County District Attorney’s Office for 25 years. She moves into her new role leading the department on Jan. 3, 2023.

Age: 51

Hometown: A Windsor resident, Rodriguez grew up in Connecticut and moved to the Bay Area when she was in high school.

She attended St. Mary’s College and then law school at Santa Clara University. While a student, she interned with the gang unit at the San Francisco District Attorney’s Office. After passing the bar exam, she worked as a Napa County prosecutor.

Why is Rodriguez is someone to watch:

A veteran deputy district attorney, Rodriguez ran unopposed in the June primary and will succeed Jill Ravitch, who has served three terms in the post.

Rodriguez will be responsible for leading a department with over 135 employees, including 55 attorneys, a Victim Services Division, the Family Justice Center and an Investigations Bureau.

Rodriguez’s transition comes at a pivotal time for Sonoma County’s criminal justice system, when several others are stepping into key leadership positions for the first time. The county also will have a new public defender, new sheriff and new probation chief.

Rodriguez, who has a lengthy list of priorities to tackle during her tenure, said she hopes to sit down with those leaders to develop a cohesive plan on how to approach major issues including homelessness.

Rodriguez’s other priorities include supporting alternatives to incarceration, mental health, combating the fentanyl trade, wage theft and crime intervention.

“People think that prosecutors’ job is to put people in prison for as long as possible, and that's not really our job anymore,” Rodriguez said.

The job, she added, is to help “people avoid a life of crime by helping people avoid having to use drugs or steal or resort to unlawful activities to survive.”

What others are saying about Rodriguez:

“I think what's really good about Carla coming in, is Carla is a hell of a trial lawyer. She's a very, very skilled lawyer. And knowing and having those kinds of skills helps translate for her to understand what cases are good cases, what cases aren't good cases, how to manage caseload, how to effectively negotiate cases and to put people in positions to get the most out of them,” said Chris Andrian, a longtime Sonoma County criminal defense lawyer.

What Rodriguez says about 2023 and the job ahead:

“My No. 1 goal as we come out of this horrible COVID pandemic and the fires is just seeing how the court system has been clogged for a couple years. … I really just want victims to know that we're working hard, that we're really working hard to get their cases to court (and) to get their cases moving forward so that they can have a sense of closure,” Rodriguez said.

You can reach Staff Writer Emma Murphy at 707-521-5228 or emma.murphy@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @MurphReports.

For more people to watch in 2023, go here.

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