By Owen Woods |

ANNE Kelly can take “interim” off her title as district attorney after defeating Robert Willett in the 12th Judicial District Attorney’s race Tuesday. She’ll now serve in the office for the next two years until the DA election cycle comes back around in 2024.

“The Valley is relying on us,” Kelly told her staff as she watched election night returns come in.

A small gathering monitored the results from the district attorney’s office above Main Street. Kelly was surrounded by staff and her newly-hired attorneys who all eagerly waited for results. 

As the final county numbers rolled in, the mood in the building rose. High fives and hugs were shared by all. A whiteboard with county-by-county numbers sat on a table in the office’s kitchen. 

How does the new DA feel about the win? 

“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.”

The office has a lot to tackle moving forward, such as hiring new lawyers and dealing with the historic and unprecedented backlog of 300 cases that stretches back to 2019. 

With an election win in her pocket, the work continues. 

“Well, tomorrow I’m gonna cover the Alamosa District Court docket, so I’m gonna be in court. I have so many plans that can really take shape now that I know I’m gonna be here for the long term,” Kelly said. 

“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. 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. In the last two months, we’ve had a couple of major cases, so I’ll be very busy with those, as well.”

Lani Welch, a victim who brought one of the allegations of Victim Rights Act violations against the former District Attorney Alonzo Payne, sat in the DA office watching returns. 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.”

Kelly was appointed interim district attorney by Gov. Jared Polis in August. The appointment came after a year-long, Valley-wide effort to recall Payne for allegations of Victim Rights Act violations. The effort led to Payne’s resignation and disbarment by the Colorado Supreme Court in September. 

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.

You can read our candidate profile of Kelly here to learn more about her past experiences and intentions moving forward.