Banks sworn in as new DA
by Anna Oakes
"I'm looking forward to getting into the office and working for the people of the 24th Judicial District," Banks said Thursday. "I'm excited about that."
Banks is assuming the duties of the office early due to an unusual set of circumstances. The governor appointed former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Robert Orr to serve as interim district attorney following the sudden March 31 retirement of outgoing DA Jerry Wilson because of health issues.
Orr then announced he would resign as interim DA June 5 so that Banks -- who won the Republican primary election for the seat -- could be appointed to fill the position. Banks is the presumptive district attorney-elect because no candidates from other parties filed for the office.
N.C. Supreme Court Justice Mark Martin administered the oath to Banks on Thursday, followed by a reception at the Nu-Wray Inn.
Banks said he first planned to tour the district and each of its offices in Avery, Madison, Mitchell, Watauga and Yancey counties.
"My immediate concern is to make sure that the district attorney's office is functioning well," said Banks. "I hope to -- in the coming months -- make steady improvements in how the district attorney's office addresses cases and disposes of cases as we look into the future."
Banks, a resident of Burnsville, said the district attorney's office would be based in Boone but that he planned to be on the road a lot.
"The primary office of the district attorney will remain in Watauga County given the population base and the caseload up there -- that only makes sense," he said. "I'm committed to be in each and every one of our five counties on a regular basis. I think that's a commitment that the DA in the 24th has to make."
Banks said that changes to district policies would take place on an incremental basis.
"This is happening on more of an expedited timeline than any of us had anticipated. Initially, I plan to take a very measured approach in changing things," he said.
Banks said he would retain the current district attorney's office staff for the time being.
"The entire staff is going to stay on board," said Banks. "There may very well be changes in the coming months, but they've all agreed to help me out with the transition. I'm thankful for that, and I'm looking forward to working with each and every one of them."
That includes one of Banks' opponents in the May 6 primary election -- Britt Springer, currently the district's chief prosecutor.
"She has graciously agreed to stay on and help me during this time of transition, and I'm thankful to have her on board," Banks said.
Orr was a supporter of Banks' candidacy and contributed to his campaign, but he said he would have turned over the reins no matter who won the primary.
"There was never any intent on my part to stay through the end of December," Orr said last week. "It would seem ... to be an inefficiency for me to hang around as an interim when we could get the presumptive elected DA in here to begin his term a little early."
The primary election represented the first time the district attorney's seat has been contested in at least three terms. Wilson, a Republican, ran unopposed for three consecutive terms in office.
Banks will need to secure at least one vote in the November general election to be officially elected to the district attorney's office, Watauga County Elections Director Jane Ann Hodges previously told Watauga Democrat.
Banks joked that he is campaigning hard for the vote of his wife, Gretchen.