District Attorney Brett Carter has spent 18 years in Roosevelt and Curry County courtrooms working to ensure felons face justice.
In about a month he’ll be an adversary to prosecutors.
Carter will take over as head of the 9th Judicial District public defender’s office next month, replacing long-time district defender Calvin Neumann, who will retire at the end of October after 25 years as the office’s top boss.
“I’m excited about the transition,” Carter said. “After the election I began thinking about working in the (public defender’s) office.”
Carter, who has been district attorney the last four years, lost his re-election bid to fellow Republican and former Assistant District Attorney Matt Chandler during this summer’s primary. Chandler does not face a challenger in the November General Election but is likely to be appointed to the district attorney’s position by the governor before January.
Carter said he will likely step down as district attorney in the first or second week in November to begin his new job.
“I’m assuming as soon as I leave, (Chandler) will be appointed district attorney, as he takes over in January (anyway). I plan on bringing him in a couple weeks early, just to get him up to speed,” Carter said.
New Mexico Chief Public Defender John Bigelow said Gov. Bill Richardson signed the order last week but asked Carter not to reveal the decision until a later date.
“I think we’re very fortunate in having Brett come over, especially in a small community like Clovis where you don’t have a lot of lawyers moving around laterally within the system,” Bigelow said.
Chandler, who was at a district attorneys’ training conference on Wednesday in Phoenix, said in a phone interview he’s confident there will be a smooth transition between administrations.
“We’ve had the opportunity to sit down and talk about things a half dozen times since the election. I’m ready to take the job over … I’m excited and ready to get home and start making plans for early November,” Chandler said.
Shortly after Carter’s defeat in the June primary, Clovis City Manager Ray Mondragon said Bigelow asked him to write a letter of reference for Carter to be the new district defender.
Mondragon said the governor told him he appointed Carter during a brief stop in Clovis last week, and praised Richardson for reaching across party lines to fill such important positions.
“I think (Carter and Chandler) will work together to do what they need to do for their respective offices,” Mondragon said.
Neumann, whose assistant public defender Jim Wilson was also a candidate for the opening, believes Carter’s credentials make him a great choice for the position.
“From the way I’ve seen him run the district attorney’s office, I don’t predict any problems,” Neumann said.
Neumann said his retirement plans include helping District Judge Teddy Hartley set up a local drug court, assisting his daughter in acquiring her master’s degree in substance abuse counseling and working on his golf swing.
Carter said he will fight for state money for more attorneys and more modernized computers in the district defender’s office.
CNJ correspondent John Randal and News Editor Mike Linn contributed to this report.