General election ballots will show a choice in only one race for county office holders in November. Tom Black has filed as a Democrat to oppose incumbent Ken Van Blaricum, a Republican, for the office of county attorney. Both are unopposed in the August primary.


General election ballots will show a choice in only one race for county office holders in November. Tom Black has filed as a Democrat to oppose incumbent Ken Van Blaricum, a Republican, for the office of county attorney. Both are unopposed in the August primary.

 “I have done it (served as county attorney) before, and I felt like a better job could be done in the position, and I wanted to give people a choice,” Black explained.

He has practiced law for 23 years, is an attorney for Black’s Law Office and is also a title insurance agent and abstracter for Pratt County Abstract Co., Inc. A lifelong county resident, he and wife Melanie have three children, Tori, Abby and Austin.

Black believes in prosecutorial discretion — carefully reviewing each case and “not filing every case that comes into the office,” but also “treating everyone fairly, regardless of who they are.”

That said, he also thinks the county attorney should be willing to go to trial when necessary, rather than accepting a plea agreement “every time.”

“A trial uses a lot of resources from the community, but there are times when you should go to trial,” Black said. “We haven’t had many criminal trials recently and it could be that they were not needed. I don’t know that.”

At one time, eight to 10 jury trials were held in the county each year. More recently, however, only one or two cases have gone to trial. Case filings are also down considerably.

“I don’t know if the crime rate has dropped in our community or if cases are not getting filed,” he commented.

During Black’s previous tenure as county attorney, from 1997-2003, he made prosecuting drug offenses a big priority, believing drugs were the root causes of a lot of crime that occurred in the county.

“You have to be very active and vigilant in enforcing drug laws to try to stem that problem as best we can,” Black said.

He also believes using legal means to discourage underage drinking — a gateway to more serious drugs — should be a priority.

“Whether you agree with the legal drinking age (21 in Kansas) or not, it should be uniformly enforced,” he said.

In 2003, Black was charged with criminal misuse of public funds relating to an informal diversion program he established, in which traffic cases could be dismissed upon payment of court costs plus an additional amount to be contributed to a charity. His first trial was declared a mistrial when the jury failed to reach a verdict. In May 2005, he was acquitted of all charges in a second trial.

Running unopposed in November are Sheriff Vernon Chinn, Clerk Sherry Kruse, Treasurer Amy Jones and Register of Deeds. Dwight Adams and Joe Reynolds both face primary election challenges for their seats on the County Commission.