Daehler is willing to bring change to the prosecutor’s office
By Derrick C. Parker
Scioto Voice Writer
Less than a year ago, Rachel Daehler was living in Charleston, South Carolina. There, she worked as the only in-house counsel in North America for the 2ndlargest manufacturer of industrial equipment in the world (KION). She had a great salaried position, was surrounded by family, and lived in a metropolitan city.
And yet- she decided to leave it all behind and return home.
“I’m originally from Southern Ohio,” said Daehler. “But I moved up to Columbus for law school, and have spent about 8 years away between there and Charleston… My husband and I began to hear all the stories about Portsmouth- the missing women, the drugs, and just a very negative outlook on the area in general. I hated to see it because I grew up here. I always had fond memories of home. And that’s not even mentioning all the truly good people that live here.”
“So, we talked. We came to the conclusion that if all the good people moved away and decided to not invest in the community then Portsmouth and Scioto County really would become the place you hear about on the evening news. We didn’t want that. So we made the conscience decision to leave our jobs and our families who had moved with us and come back home.”
“It was a difficult decision. But it was the right decision.”
Daehler moved back on New Year’s Eve of last year. And though she had always knew she wanted to run for office, she didn’t realize she’d have the opportunity so soon.
“I certainly did not move back knowing that in 6-7 months I would be running for County Prosecutor. But here I am. And it’s been the right call.”
While just 30 years old, Daehler has a wealth of education and real world experience that qualifies her for the position. She graduated from Portsmouth High School, earned her undergraduate degree in International Relations from Shawnee State University, and received a law degree from Capitol University.
During law school, Daehler worked for a defense attorney which led her to become interested in criminal litigation.
“I decided it’s what I wanted to pursue,” said Daehler. “After law school, I took a job as the assistant county prosecutor for Licking County. I worked hands on with law enforcement officers. In fact, most of my mornings I met with them and issued warrants and charging decisions. It helped me really get to see the criminal justice system from the inside out.”
Daehler then moved to South Carolina and started at KION. There, she built their legal department from the ground up.
“It was a great job. I got to build that department in the way I thought it would function best. It was a lot of responsibility, too. There was a lot of learning of how to do things with almost no guidance. But it was a great role to have. I learned a lot.”
After returning to the area, Daehler took a position at the Burnside Law Office. There she works on nursing home abuse and wrongful death cases. But, she also has her own practice handling criminal defense and guardian ad litem cases as well. In both cases, she says the work is much more rewarding despite not being as financially lucrative.
“The work I do is bettering someone else’s life. That’s the biggest difference. But that’s what drives me. My dad always jokes that he knew I’d be a criminal lawyer when he came home from work one day in 1994. I was 6 or 7, and I was watching the OJ Simpson murder trial. I think he knew from that day forward what my career path would be.”
The Scioto Voice asked Daehler what she would bring to the prosecutor’s position if elected.
“There is a lot we can do differently to better our community,” she said. “We do a lot of attacking the supply of drugs- which is great. You have to incarcerate drug dealers. But we do almost nothing to affect the demand. That’s basic economics. As long as the demand is there, there will always be someone willing to supply. Every time you take out a drug dealer 5-6 more will pop up afterwards. If we never address the demand for drugs, our community will never get any better.”
Daehler says Scioto County was purposefully targeted by drug manufacturers who knew Southern Ohio was an area with high rates of unemployment, disability, and despair.
“We were directly targeted. And that’s a large part of our problem today…And people dehumanize addicts instead of seeing them as human beings with a disorder. They are treated as a sub-class of humans. That view makes it easy to detach. But my argument is that these people are only in this position, in many cases, because a well meaning doctor prescribed them opioids at some point. That situation isn’t true for everyone, but you can’t place all the blame on a person for bad choices.”
Daehler suggests two new methods for dealing with drug offenders: pre-indictment diversion and pre-arrest diversion programs.
“Lawrence County has a pre-indictment diversion program. So, instead of get indicted, an offender would be diverted to a drug or mental health counseling center. And many times, drugs and mental health problems go hand in hand. The hope is they remain sober and get on a real path to job training to lead a productive life. Here’s an interesting stat: 5.2% of Ohio’s GDP is lost every year because of opioids. Much of that is from the cost of incarceration. We are seeing a whole population of people no longer in the workforce and that’s huge for our state.”
She also points to Charleston, West Virginia’s pre-arrest diversion program as something Portsmouth could emulate.
“Offenders come in contact with police, whether they are having a drug or mental health crisis, and law enforcement offers can make referrals on the spot. They can say ‘look- you are struggling. Let’s go somewhere and get you treatment.’ This is opposed to arresting them. We have lots of individuals in crises that are arrested for disorderly conduct or possession. Instead, get them into treatment as soon as possible. Charleston has a 73% success rate. That means almost ¾ of these people in the diversion program do not re offend…I hear so many people in this area complain because the same people are given Narcan over and over. Maybe so, but that’s because they are addicts and we don’t follow up with treatment programs for them.”
Daehler also contrasts herself with the current County Prosecutor Shane Tieman.
“I have a different perspective than Mr. Tieman. I come from a unique perspective because I’ve seen the drug and mental health crisis personally effect my family…I want us to start thinking outside the box. We have to stop considering conviction rate as the marker of a successful prosecutor. What’s more important is a safe and healthy community. And I don’t think we are either.”
She also wants to make the prosecutor’s office more collaborative.
“Many people in different aspects of government and industry say the current prosecutor’s office is a brick wall. It’s not collaborative. We currently have people in our government who aren’t necessarily helpful and pushing to get our community where it needs to be. So, groups of individual citizens have popped up. And while that’s a turning point, that shouldn’t be the way things are done. It’s great that we have these groups but government officials need to start considering some changes.”
Daehler says there is a simple reason to vote for her in November- she is willing to bring about change in Scioto County.
“No one can say that the past 20 years have been good for Southern Ohio and Scioto County. We are putting government officials on notice and holding them responsible. We aren’t any better and we aren’t any safer. It’s not just law enforcement, and it’s not just because of economics- it’s a general issue. But we don’t currently have leaders in the community thinking outside the box or trying to do things differently. For 14 years we’ve tried to incarcerate our way out of this mess and it is not working. That stats show that. The experts say that. And unless we seek change in the prosecutors office we will continue down this same route.”
She also urges voters to not consider her age a drawback- but a strength.
“Look around this county. Lots of really good things have happened in the past 5 years because a young person did something a little differently. I’m never going to win the experience argument. I just don’t have 20 years of legal experience. But my argument is there has been a lot of experience in the prosecutor’s office- but has that made us any better off?”
“The fact that I am where I am today at 30 years old is an indicator of what type of person I am. I am driven. I am tenacious. And when there’s something I can do I will do it the right way. Yes- I am young. But that doesn’t make me a less viable candidate. It makes me a better one.”