IT’S a new day in the Valley, says newly elected District Attorney Anne Kelly.

Appointed interim DA by Gov. Jared Polis, Kelly defeated Robert Willett on Tuesday to secure the next two years as district attorney for the 12th Judicial District.

Kelly, through the district attorney’s office, is hosting an “It’s A New Day In The Valley” celebration on Monday to punctuate the victory and to keep sending a message about how the district attorney’s office and its caseload will be managed.

“The Valley is relying on us,” Kelly told The Citizen during her election-night victory.

“I think it says a lot about what the Valley wants and what the Valley needs and what the Valley deserves,” she said. “I think they voted for change. I think they voted for an opportunity to move forward, and we have an incredible mandate in front of us.”

Kelly has requested increased funding from the six counties of the San Luis Valley to add additional prosecutors to the staff. There is an acknowledgment among past prosecutors, district court judges and county commissioners who approve local budgets that the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s office has been hampered by funding levels.

Whether Kelly is able to convince county governments to increase the funding will show up in the 2023 county operating budgets. Those are still being reviewed and approved by local county governments in the Valley.

“I have a bunch of ideas for hiring new lawyers. I want to talk to the (San Luis Valley) commissioners about what the budget looks like,” Kelly said. “I’ve been talking to law enforcement about a collaborative task force and bringing in some fresh excitement to the idea of collaboration with law enforcement.”

One of the supporters present as Kelly and others watched election-night returns was Lani Welch, a crime victim who brought one of the allegations of Victim Rights Act violations against the former District Attorney Alonzo Payne.

Kelly attributed the strong push for her success to Welch. 

“We have to make sure we do everything we can to restore trust in the criminal justice system. That means we have to always be responsive to victims, reaching out, speaking with them, making sure they understand the process,” Kelly said. “We have to be focused exclusively on the mission of regaining trust, which means we just have to be better, we have to be better than we’ve ever been and we have to make sure that the community knows that we are a competent, professional office going forward.”

Prior to arriving in the San Luis Valley, Kelly was senior deputy district attorney for the 20th Judicial District in Boulder County.

Kelly earned her law degree from Fordham University in New York City. Her law career started in the Big Apple, but she soon found her way west. Kelly has worked in the 18th, 19th, 20th, and now the 12th Judicial Districts during her time in Colorado.