Bedford County's district attorney not seeking another term

Jan. 5—BEDFORD, Pa. — Bedford County's top prosecutor is stepping down from the post at the end of the year.

District Attorney Lesley Childers-Potts said Wednesday she will not seek a third term at the $196,000 per year job.

Potts has been with the office for a decade, first as an assistant. She said her decision was made nearly a year ago.

In an email to The tribune-Democrat, Potts said the "tremendous," unending demands of the job have made it difficult to dedicate time to other priorities — particularly her family.

Since taking the job, Potts said she has been available to law enforcement 24-7 — and that means staying within cell phone range in a county where that's not always available.

"I miss out on activities with my children and miss functions with extended family because I cannot be without cell phone service. My family has patiently tolerated this for the last several years," Potts said, adding that she made the decision after discussing it with them. "I think it's time for me to get back to putting my family first."

Potts' ascent to the elected office was sudden in 2018.

She was sworn into the job the same day her former boss, William Higgins Jr., resigned while facing a list of charges that he helped women dodge punishment for sexual favors.

Higgins pleaded guilty in 2018 and received house arrest and eight years probation.

Potts was elected to the position a year later, but it hasn't been without challenges.

Her office was under a national spotlight in 2020 for the perceived way it handled an investigation, and, later, charges filed regarding a shooting between a Schellsburg area man and a Milwaukee Civil Rights activist along Route 30.

Potts has also, at times, been the only attorney within her office, which typically has more than 100 cases moving through the system.

In a more extreme example of a hurdle prosecutors statewide have been facing filling vacancies within their own offices, Potts had to refer 36 active cases to the state Office of the Attorney General last fall after at least two assistant prosecutors resigned.

The total was approximately 20% of her caseload, she told the Altoona Mirror at the time.

In August — after Potts said she made her decision to step down at the end of 2023 — the county's president judge issued harsh words for her office, saying courtroom efforts were at times "non-sensical" during a point three child sexual abuse cases ended without verdicts. Two were declared mistrials.

As of Thursday, at least one candidate has announced intentions to replace Potts as district attorney in 2024.

Ashlan Clark, who works as a criminal defense lawyer in Cambria, Blair and Bedford counties, said Wednesday she is seeking the post.

Potts said she "supports (Clark's) endeavor and wishes her the best of luck."

Potts told The Tribune-Democrat she is still "exploring several options" with her own career after her term as district attorney ends "and hasn't made any decisions just yet."