Interim Minnehaha Co. State’s Attorney hopes for “brighter days”

Local News

The interim Minnehaha County State’s Attorney hopes to boost morale in the office after a tumultuous couple of months, and the resignation of her predecessor.

Judge Robin Houwman named Crystal Johnson as a temporary replacement for Aaron McGowan. McGowan resigned following an investigation by Attorney General Jason Ravnsborg at the direction of Governor Kristi Noem. The report indicated McGowan may have abused alcohol and sent inappropriate Snapchat messages to coworkers. No charges were filed against McGowan. McGowan also cited complications from knee surgery in an email about his resignation.

Johnson is no stranger to the Minnehaha County State’s Attorney office. The County Commission will eventually decide how to fill the job, which isn’t up for re-election until 2020. That means Johnson doesn’t know how long she’ll hold the title, but has plans to make her time count.

Her name is on the door, but Crystal Johnson hasn’t moved into her new office at the Minnehaha County building yet. Instead, she’s first focusing on moving her staff forward.

“We’re hoping to look on to brighter days,” Johnson said.

McGowan’s resignation became official just a few days ago. She says the people who work here are ready to go in a different direction.

“While I think morale was down, I don’t think it was a bad work environment just because the people who work here are positive, outgoing, fun people to be around,” Johnson said.

If Johnson looks familiar, here’s why. She is a University of Sioux Falls graduate, and attended law school in Kansas. She has worked here since 2005, before leaving to be a magistrate judge in the county.

“I missed being at the state’s attorneys office. To me, it’s just work I get to do every day. I’m fortunate I get to do work I love,” Johnson said.

Johnson returned to the state’s attorney’s office in 2018. It’s still up in the air how long she’ll be the interim Minnehaha County State’s Attorney, but she’s not ruling out keeping the job on a more permanent basis.

“I’ve considered running. I haven’t made a decision yet,”Johnson said.

No matter who has this office, Johnson says there are about 30 others working here. That’s why she hopes, moving forward, the focus is on them and the work they do to protect the county.

“We have attorneys in courtrooms every single day that are working really hard for justice and holding people accountable,” Johnson said.

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