Entering his 25th year as a career prosecutor, Steve Kunzweiler was sworn in as the Tulsa County District Attorney just last week. Steve has spent the past 11 years as a Tulsa County Assistant District Attorney, with his most recent position as Chief of Criminal Prosecutor. With extensive prosecuting and leadership experience, Steve has tried everything from misdemeanors to violent crimes such as armed robbery and murder, as well as mentored and supervised 35 assistant District Attorneys through these cases.
Steve graduated from the University of Tulsa School of Law in 1988, has been married to his wife Christine for 25 years, and they have three beautiful daughters. The League of Women Voters of Metro Tulsa took a moment to catch up with Steve to get to know him more, and get a glimpse of what’s to come at the Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office.
“The biggest difference between being an ADA and the DA is appreciating how many people inside the office are dependent upon you for a job, and how many people outside the office are dependent upon you doing your job.” –Steve Kunzweiler
What will the Tulsa County District Attorney’s office agenda be for 2015?
First and foremost the responsibility of any District Attorney is public safety. We will continue to focus our attention on removing from the streets those individuals who pose the greatest risks to our community.
There are two areas which need to be addressed during the next four years – not just for 2015. First, anything which will improve the lives and safety of our children will be a priority of our office. We want to influence young lives in a positive direction to fulfill their dreams and goals. Second, the funding for our statewide district attorney offices is woefully insufficient to do the necessary job of public safety. A core responsibility of government is the safety of its citizens. District Attorney offices account for less than one percent of the state budget – yet we handle the overwhelming majority of all crimes committed in the state. Our state deserves to have offices staffed with career oriented prosecutors who have the experience to make the life altering decisions which impact so many of our lives.
What 3 changes will citizens see under your leadership as DA?
Tim Harris served our community well as our District Attorney these past 16 years. He shepherded us through many difficult times involving gangs, methamphetamine, and senseless violence. I will continue to follow in his footsteps to ensure the safety of our community.
The mustache will still be here, but I hope to build positive relationships with local law enforcement, schools, and our business community.
What is the biggest issue that Tulsa is facing?
We are still dealing with a crisis in addiction – whether it involves illegal drugs, prescription medications, or synthetic drugs. Attacking this problem at its inception is our biggest challenge.
What misconceptions do you think there is of the DA’s office?
Our job is to find the truth and then seek justice. We are ministers of justice. Our obligation to our community is to uphold the rule of law. Therefore, if we determine a person is wrongfully accused we will dismiss the case.
Can you give us details, elaborate, on your DA/Middle School mentoring program?
I believe that the best way to learn what is going on with our children is to have one-on-one contact with the people who are doing the educating. Therefore each of my prosecutors will be assigned a school. The prosecutor on a monthly basis will interact with that school – whether it is the principal, a teacher, a counselor, or a classroom of students. The prosecutor should stand as a role model to these students. The prosecutor can gather information from the school which will help our office in formulating policies designed to improve how we deal with children in the court system.
To you, what is the most significant case that you have worked on?
I have handled a lot of tragic cases, but the most inspirational case involved a young woman who was physically and sexually abused by her father for years. She had every reason to give up on life, but she is now a wonderful mother and a model for overcoming adversity. She refuses to be defined by her victimization. She works hard every day to provide a better life for her child and for herself. It is people like her who give me and other prosecutors the strength to wage the battles we have to on a daily basis.
Do you think the DA race should be partisan or non-partisan? Why?
Politics is politics . . . and prosecutors are not politicians. We don’t care what the color of a person’s skin is, where they came from, what religion they belong to, or which political party they support. The only thing that matters is “did he/she do it, and if he/she did it, what is the appropriate consequence.”
What is your favorite Tulsa spot?
With a fourteen year old soccer playing daughter it would be any soccer field in the county. There is nothing more rewarding to a father than to see his daughter having fun with her friends in a game that never stops.
Do you have a song that gets you pumped up for work/trial? If so what song and why?
I am confident that the following list will get me in trouble with someone:
– Enter Sandman by Metallica (What red blooded American man doesn’t like this song?)
– Best of Both Worlds by Van Halen (Eddie Van Halen and a guitar is all that needs to be said).
– Blue Collar Man by Styx (Head banging music)
– Turn Me Loose by Loverboy (Head banging music part two)
What can we find you doing on the weekends?
You can find me at a soccer field cheering on my daughter.