BELLAIRE — James Rossiter credits his old boss for providing a blueprint of what it takes to be a great prosecutor.
For 11 years, Rossiter was inspired by Antrim County Prosecutor Charles Koop's fairness, his sense of right and wrong and his compassion for the victims of crime. Koop made Rossiter want to become a county prosecutor himself, but he remained "content" serving under his mentor.
Koop, 63, died Aug. 6 in his Williamsburg home and left Antrim County looking for a new prosecutor for the first time in 23 years. On Thursday, 13th Circuit Court judges Thomas Power and Philip Rodgers announced they appointed Rossiter as Antrim County prosecutor.
"It's a bittersweet way to become the prosecutor," Rossiter said. "Working for (Koop) was just outstanding."
Rodgers said the position was Rossiter's to lose. He said the judges interviewed Rossiter on Wednesday and informed him of their decision the next day before any other outside candidates were considered.
"When the whole process was complete, it was actually an easy decision because he's a good person as a human being and a good attorney," Rodgers said, praising Rossiter's successful prosecution of recent methamphetamine cases. "We found (it) unnecessary to advertise this and bring in people with no connection to Antrim County."
Rossiter served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1993 to 1998. He started working in the prosecutor's office as a student extern in 2002 and accepted a full-time position a year later following his law school graduation. He lives in Antrim County with his family.
Rossiter said his appointment already opened a "whole new world" of budget concerns, annual reports and an imminent staffing decision in order to fill a now-vacant assistant prosecutor position. He said he would try to follow Koop's example as prosecutor.
"I'm grateful for him," he said.
Antrim County Sheriff Dan Bean said Koop left big shoes to fill, but he felt Rossiter was up for the challenge.
"It's going to be hard for anyone to fill Charlie Koop's shoes, but Jim will fight for victims just like Charlie did," he said.
Koop would have been up for reelection in 2016. Rossiter, a Republican, said his understanding was a special election will need to be held in 2014 and the winner would serve the rest of Koop's term and be up for reelection in 2016.