Two victim advocates moving on

Cary Ashby • Oct 29, 2015 at 12:52 PM

Huron County's loss will be Erie County's gain.

Jody Craig, the director of victim assistance for Huron County Prosecutor Russell Leffler since July 1999, will begin an equivalent position Monday in Erie County. Her last day in Leffler's office was Friday.

"I've truly enjoyed my job here. I worked with the most wonderful people here. That's going to be the hardest part," Craig said.

The Clyde resident believes her new job is "an opportunity to advance and spread my wings a little bit." She expects her commute to her new position to be about the same as her former job.

In Erie County Prosecutor Kevin Baxter's office, Craig will be overseeing the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program as well as organizing training and fund-raisers.

About five years ago, Craig collaborated with current Erie County United Way Executive Director Pam Colbert, who used to work in Baxter's office, to start the SANE program. It covers Huron, Erie and Ottawa counties.

Craig worked in Baxter's office as an intern 10 to 11 years ago.

She later became a paid staff member and started the victim assistance program through Erie County Juvenile Court.

Baxter said Craig's experience and ability to "hit the ground running" set her apart from the other candidates to be his director of victim assistance.

Norwalk Municipal Court Victim Advocate Tina Ashakih also had her last day in Leffler's office Friday. She held that position for four years.

Ashakih and her husband plan to take classes to once again be foster parents, with plans to adopt.

"I want to spend more time with my kids," she said about her daughters, Jasmine, 9, and Danielle, 7.

The rural Norwalk woman may have quit her job, but she will remain busy. Ashakih is in her second year as a Brownie troop leader and will be baby-sitting. In the evenings, she will be painting and taking orders for her artwork.

"I'm going to focus on my artwork," Ashakih explained. "I can't believe it; I've got a lot of orders already."

Craig said the local victim assistance program "expanded ... all around" under her tenure. For instance, the municipal court program was developed and three people were hired. There also were at least 10 volunteers and interns who worked in the victim assistance program since Craig became the director eight years ago.

"We've had three interns who worked here for about six months or longer ... as a requirement of their class," she explained. "(Volunteer) Mary Jane (Warchol) worked there for four years."

Craig also cited another important achievement: Retired Huron County Common Pleas Judge Earl McGimpsey's 2006 decision to have defendants make restitution payments to victims before paying court costs. State law requires court costs be paid first, unless a judge rules otherwise. Current Judge Jim Conway has maintained what McGimpsey started.

The former director said she also worked with the court to come up with creative resolutions to restitution and "enforce orders that were put in place."

Ashakih agreed with Craig that their Huron County work has made a difference.

"I'm definitely going to miss the importance of the job," Ashakih said.

She admitted it was easy to "take it home with you," because of her passion for helping victims. Ashakih also learned many legal aspects of the complicated criminal justice system.

"This is the rare job where you come in every day and hope to help someone through a serious crisis in their life. And you can't say that about every job," she said.

Leffler is planning to hire replacements for both positions. He currently is reviewing more than 75 resumes.

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