Former deputy Wallowa County District Attorney Rebecca Frolander is now the district attorney.
Former DA Mona Williams has been appointed to the 10th Circuit Court bench.
Frolander ran unopposed for the slot in the May election.
Frolander, a Wallowa County native, graduated as valedictorian from Enterprise High School in 1999. Intending to become a doctor, she attended Pacific University in Forest Grove, taking undergraduate degrees in both journalism and cell and molecular biology.
“I wanted to be a unique applicant when I applied to medical schools, so I was taking all my science courses and majoring in journalism –– I was going to be a doctor who could communicate with people,” Frolander said.
As time passed, she found herself less interested in medicine.
She wanted to attend graduate school but wasn’t sure what field to pursue, so she moved back home, where she ran the tech crew with the Employment and Training Consortium.
Eventually, Williams, who was in private practice at the time, offered Frolander a legal assistant position.
“She knew I had graduated from Pacific, and I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do,” Frolander said.
Frolander agreed to a two-year commitment and when Williams became DA, Frolander was offered the post of Victim Services manager, also continuing her work as a legal assistant and office manager.
After nearly four years, Frolander decided to pursue a legal career and began attending Willamette University.
“I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor when I went, and my ultimate goal was to end up here back in Wallowa County,” she said. She spent two summers interning for Williams and graduated in 2013.
While still in college, Frolander heard a deputy district attorney slot was about to open, and she intended to apply, but the slot was filled before she graduated.
“I was pretty upset,” she said. “Not that there was the promise of a job, but I had a plan, and it changed at that point.”
She debated about becoming a prosecutor elsewhere or opening a private practice in the county. She applied for a slot in the Union County DA’s office, but it was taken by the person hired in Wallowa County while she was still in school.
“I applied for the opening that created here, and I got hired,” she said.
Her previous legal experience and victims services work helped give her a leg up on the position as colleges don’t necessarily train lawyers for specific fields.
“You learn how to research and write, and you learn subject matter, but you don’t learn general practice,” she said.
The first time Friolander officially appeared in court was for a game violation sentencing. She was nervous.
“I was so nervous, I couldn’t remember the facts of the case,” she said. “I was trying to read from the police report, and when I got to the end, I said, ‘And those are the facts, your honor, as confusing as they may be!’”
What Frolander most enjoys about her work is advocating for others.
“I get to advocate for the public as a whole,” she said. “The part I’m most passionate about is that I get to advocate for victims and ensure they’re given meaningful access to the court system.”
She said that she’s cognizant of how personal crimes affect the victim. “I try to make sure they’re not revictimized by the court process. I’ve always been someone who wants to help others and this is a good way to do it.”
Frolander believes in offender accountability, but she also sees the other side of the coin.
“I also believe in treatment and reformation, but I think you need the accountability part if you’re trying to change someone’s behavior,” she said.
The most challenging part of her job is trying to be neutral when the facts of the case are challenging –– for example, when she sees people she knows or grew up with at the defendant’s table. Also, the job doesn’t end when she leaves the court or office.
“I’m always a district attorney, when I go grocery shopping and when I’m weeding my flower beds in the front yard,” she said with a laugh. “It’s a 24/7 job.”
She intends to hire a deputy shortly.
The DA is responsible for the investigation of all unattended deaths. She is also the chair for the child abuse multi-disciplinary intervention team.
Frolander said not to expect big changes in the office. She believed she and Williams did a good job of representing the community in the execution of their office and that will continue.
“I’ve been doing the job, and I will evaluate every case and determine what I can or can’t do with it,” she said. “I care very much about the position and the people who live here, and I will continue to serve them to the best of my ability.”