CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Former Assistant Prosecutor Debra Rusnak is now assuming the role as Kanawha County’s newest lead Prosecutor and the first woman to serve in the position in the county’s history

The Kanawha County Commission made the unanimous decision to select Rusnak for the unexpired term after the previous county prosecutor Chuck Miller announced he was retiring.

Debra Rusnak

Rusnak took oath of office during Thursday evening’s commission meeting. In an earlier interview with MetroNews she said she couldn’t be happier the commission chose her to fill the role.

“I’m humbled, I’m honored, ecstatic I guess is a good word,” Rusnak told MetroNews. “I’m just really excited to have this opportunity and to be able to move the office forward.”

Rusnak is already the GOP nominee for the position in the November General Election.

She was chosen to serve as interim prosecutor out three eligible candidates.

Commission President Lance Wheeler said upon reviewing the resumes they received for the position, Rusnak stood out as the perfect fit to serve the term for the next six months as it’s essentially a job she’s already familiar with doing.

Lance Wheeler

“Who knows where the pencils are, who knows what the case load looks like, who knows all the current employees, these are the same factors I came to know to make the selection for   Commissioner Slotnick who now serves as a temporary replacement for the unexpired term for the county commission,” said Wheeler.

Commissioner Ben Salango chimed in as choosing Rusnak came down to a more personal decision for him. He said about ten years ago Rusnak interned in his law office after honing in on her plan to work in law.

Salango said there’s no one more deserving of the position than Rusnak as she’s worked hard for it and will hold the title of the first woman in the county do so with honor.

“In the 200-plus year history of Kanawha County, Kanawha County was a county long before West Virginia was a state, we’ve never had a female prosecutor, never had one, that’s going to change tonight, because just like she has beat all stereotypes, tonight she’s going to shatter a glass ceiling, and I’m absolutely honored to second,” Salango said.

Ben Salango

After graduating from West Virginia University College of Law and obtaining a license to practice law in the state, Rusnak has served as lead counsel with the Kanawha County Prosecutor’s Office on a total of 360 felony cases. Many of the cases involved jury trials, including multiple homicide and sexual assault trials that resulted in handing down life prison sentences.

Rusnak said the basis of her administration’s aim is to uphold the law and to do what is right, plain and simple.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility and we as prosecutors have a tremendous burden, but what I would like to bring to the office, and I’m not saying it’s not already there to some extent, but I believe the policy of the office needs to be that right is right and wrong is wrong, fair is fair, the law is the law for everybody,” she said.

Rusnak said while in charge in the prosecutor’s office, she also plans to still be in the courtroom to try cases as well.

During Thursday’s meeting Rusnak joined the commission in recognizing former prosecutor Chuck Miller with his good work in filling the role as well as his long career in public service that had extended beyond the prosecutor’s office.

The commission said Miller had stepped into the position during a time of turmoil and managed to bring peace.

Rusnak said she is grateful that Miller was her predecessor and she learned a lot from him.

“I’m humbled to be the choice of this commission and to follow and serve out the term of Chuck Miller,” said Rusnak. “I want to thank Chuck Miller for the mentorship he has provided and for his support in me being his successor.”

Rusnak will serve out the term as interim prosecutor for six months until a candidate is selected in November. She runs against Democratic Challenger John Mitchell.

The winner of the General Election will then be sworn into a full term as prosecutor.

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