By Elizabeth Bell
Joshua Elrod was elected Buena Vista Commonwealth’s Attorney with 62.1% of the votes, after defeating Daniel Mowry in Tuesday’s special election.
Seats for the Virginia General Assembly were also contested in the election, but driving through neighborhoods in Buena Vista, the lawns were filled with campaign signs for the commonwealth’s attorney race.
Elrod, 48, is a graduate of the University of Virginia School of Law and was appointed interim commonwealth’s attorney in May, after Buena Vista’s former commonwealth’s attorney, Christopher Russell, was appointed a general district judge. Elrod is a partner with Mann, Vita & Elrod in Lexington and had served as Lexington’s city attorney.
“This is something that I’ve been interested in for a long time,” he said. “When this opportunity came up to be appointed and to be the incumbent and get in and do the job, I was really excited about it.”
After receiving his interim appointment, Elrod stepped down as Lexington’s city attorney and he and his family moved to Buena Vista.
Mowry, 30, who ran as a Republican, moved to Buena Vista on April 1 to fulfill the requirement that candidates for commonwealth’s attorney live in the city.
He is a graduate of Liberty University School of Law and an attorney for the Nelson, McPherson, Summers & Santos law firm in Staunton. He also serves as counsel for the Rockbridge Area Department of Social Services.
Elrod ran for commonwealth’s attorney in Lexington and Rockbridge County in 2011 and 2015 but was unsuccessful.
Before moving to Buena Vista, Elrod practiced criminal law in the area for over 20 years and has tried cases in Buena Vista on a regular basis, he said. He has also served on boards for Habitat for Humanity, Yellow Brick Road Early Learning Center, and Rockbridge Area Recreation Organization.
“In terms of trying to shape the policy and have an impact on the community, it’s a much bigger responsibility and opportunity serving as the elected commonwealth’s attorney,” he said. “You’ve got the community as your client and you can seek to reflect in what you do their interests at large.”
Both Elrod and Mowry said they see domestic violence, substance abuse, crimes against children and overcrowding at the local jail as the most significant issues facing the criminal justice system in Buena Vista.
Elrod said he hopes to implement a regional drug court by the end of his two-year term. His office is already working towards establishing one.
“The intrinsic goal of drug court is to rehabilitate people and really it takes the punishment aspect out pretty much entirely,” he said. “To get the individual in drug court to a healthy state where they’re not substance addicted anymore and where they no longer represent a danger, a burden or a challenge to the community.”
He also wants to provide more reform to the way the commonwealth’s attorney’s office handles domestic violence issues and provide more resources for victims of domestic violence.
“We’re always trying to better use the services that are available to try to regulate and reform behavior for domestic violence issues,” he said. “That might mean counseling for the perpetrator or better services for people who are victims, so they don’t get back into a situation where they’re revictimized.”