Sara M. Mason and Mike Perreault are ready to step up to the top law enforcement posts in Benzie and Kalkaska counties, respectively.
They aren't a bit nervous, even though they could be the youngest county prosecutors in the state.
Mason, 29, easily beat fellow Republicans Anthony Cicchelli and Michael Smith during Tuesday's primary election in Benzie County. No Democrats or independents filed to run, so Mason will take over in January.
Perreault, 28, was the only Republican candidate in Kalkaska County. No Democrats filed to run, but he will face Scott Isles, an independent, in November.
Mason runs a private practice in Beulah and passed the bar exam just four years ago. Her relative lack of experience doesn't worry her as she prepares to take office.
"I'm ready, absolutely," she said. "I have the courtroom experience, I have trial experience."
Perreault, who works as an assistant prosecutor in Kalkaska County and is a military combat veteran, passed the bar last year after he used the G.I. Bill to attend law school.
"I'm confident I can handle the job," he said. "I've got a solid track record of doing what's right and working hard."
A spokeswoman for the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan said Mason and Perreault are younger than any other sitting elected prosecutors in the state. She hadn't heard of any younger candidates who will participate in the November election, but couldn't rule out that possibility.
'Young and fresh'
Mason picked up 1,726 votes in her race. Cicchelli, Benzie's prosecutor from 1996 to 2008, was runner up with 903 votes. Mason actively campaigned for the post, but believes her reputation gave her the biggest boost as she cruised to victory.
"I always give it my best. I'm always thoroughly prepared, I take the time to know my clients and know my cases, and I think people see that," she said.
She also believes her age may have been an advantage in the race, not a detriment.
"I got the sense a lot of people were ready for a change here in Benzie County," she said. "Someone young and fresh."
She's a native of Macomb County and moved to Benzie to live with her boyfriend immediately after passing the bar. She's done "almost strictly" criminal work, she said, and served on the court-appointed attorneys list in Benzie and Manistee counties.
She has a degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing and a political science degree from Central Michigan University. Before she became a lawyer she intended to run for public office, so taking a stab at the prosecutor's post was a perfect way to mesh both passions.
"It just kind of made sense," she said.
Benzie County's elected officials, including Cicchelli, frequently were in the news in recent years for a series of questionable and sometimes unprofessional decisions and actions. Mason wants to make those incidents a distant memory.
"We've had some things in the past that weren't the best," she said. "I want to restore our reputation here."
Outgoing Benzie County Sheriff Rory Heckman, who endorsed Mason, is glad she won.
"She's smart, she's going to be aggressive and she's going to do the right thing," he said. "It's wonderful for Benzie County."
And sheriff candidate Ted Schendel, who crushed his Republican opponents in Tuesday's election, looks forward to working with Mason if he gets by an independent challenger in the November election.
"She's young, she's energetic, and she has a clean record. Benzie County voters want people to be professional," he said. "I'm very excited to work with her. I think we'll make a good team."
Ready to move up
Perreault is a graduate of Traverse City Central High School and Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He enlisted in the U.S. Marines in 2002 and was honorably discharged in 2008.
In 2006 and 2007 he was in Iraq, and said he saw combat in Baghdad and Fallujah. After his military service, he sought a full-time job as a police officer, but had no success.
"A lot of jobs dried up in law enforcement, so I decided I needed to go to law school and become a prosecutor," he said.
Former Kalkaska County Prosecutor Brian Donnelly hired him last year as an assistant, and Kirk Metzger, who replaced Donnelly on an interim basis when Donnelly suddenly died in January, promoted Perreault to chief assistant several months ago.
He might be less than two years out of law school, but Perreault said his experience readied him for the top job. He already handles much of the work in the prosecutor's office as chief assistant, and said he has a passion for the work.
"I put everything toward getting the job done," he said. "I take everything I've got and put it into what I do. I'm prepared to do this job."
Kalkaska Sheriff Dave Israel said he's been impressed with Perreault's work.
"From what I've seen so far, he's done a really good job," Israel said. "He's green, but he's good."
His enthusiasm for and dedication to prosecutorial duties is evident in more ways than one, Israel said.
"Most people out of law school, they're looking to make the big bucks," he said. You don't make a lot of money being an assistant prosecutor in Kalkaska County."