Jean Peters Baker is the new Jackson County Prosecutor. Declaring her to be the "absolute best person for this job," County Executive Mike Sanders announced Peters-Baker's appointment during a news conference held this afternoon at the courthouse in Kansas City. "My role was to pick the individual I believe who best serves the Prosecutor's Office at this time -- who can lead that office and move it forward in a positive direction," said Sanders. "Jean is the person to do that."
Peters Baker fills the vacancy created when Jim Kanatzar stepped down as County Prosecutor to become a Missouri 16th Circuit Court judge. Melissa Mauer-Smith had served as interim Prosecutor since April 28. Peters Baker will serve out Kanatzar's term, set to expire December 31, 2012.
The next election for Jackson County Prosecutor will be held in the fall of 2012.
Peters Baker returns to the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office, after leaving it upon being elected last fall to represent the 39th District in the Missouri State House. She previously spent 14 years in the Prosecutor's Office, during which time she tried more than 60 jury trials, handling primarily violent crimes.
"I am so honored to have represented the 39th District, and I am honored to now serve as the Prosecutor in this county," said Peters Baker. "As of this moment, I am ready. I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get down to the business of doing this job. There's work to be done. Let's start getting it done."
From November 2007 through December of last year, Peters Baker served as the Chief Warrant Officer and Trial Team leader for the Kansas City Warrant Desk. In that capacity, she supervised a team that included trial attorneys, legal interns, an investigator, a victim's advocate and support staff. She was also directly responsible for overseeing the daily review of all crimes reported from the Kansas City Police Department and other law enforcement agencies.
Peters Baker stressed she would count on the professionals "who have devoted their lives to the Prosecutor's Office and to the service of our community" to assist her in succeeding in her new role as the County's chief law enforcement official. She was sworn in by Charles E. Atwell, Presiding Judge of the 16th Circuit.
'Character, Integrity & Passion'
Sanders praised the work of the Advisory Committee he appointed to aid him in selecting a new County Prosecutor. After reviewing applications and conducting initial interviews, the committee presented Sanders three finalists to consider for the Prosecutor's appointment. The committee made sure, he said, the process was "independent, thorough and very fair."
He added, "I understand when you select someone to lead the Prosecutor's Office, you are selecting someone not just to lead that office but to help set the tone for the legal community both inside and outside the Greater Kansas City area.
"Jean has the character, the integrity and the passion to lead that office."
Sanders called all of the eight candidates the Advisory Committee interviewed "outstanding individuals."
Kanatzar was appointed County Prosecutor in 2007, succeeding Sanders upon Sanders assuming the duties of County Executive. Kanatzar then won the 2008 County Prosecutor election.
• Jean Peters Baker earned her Juris Doctorate from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1998 -- three years after receiving her Master of Science in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to becoming the Chief Warrant Officer in November 2007, Peters Baker had various other assignments in the Jackson County Prosecutor's Office that included working in the Sex Crimes and Child Abuse Unit, the Domestic Violence Unit, the Drug Enforcement Unit, and the Drug Abatement Response Team Unit.
• She also served as a Grand Jury Prosecutor and Warrant Desk Attorney.
• In 2005, Mike Sanders, then the County Prosecutor, presented Peters Baker the Victim Advocate of the Year Award for championing the rights of crime victims and their families.