For Darin Knepper, the newest member of the Platte County Attorney’s Office, he’s currently hard at work in his new position as a deputy county attorney.
But after he left work last week, he went back to a place that is only temporary for him. He and his family are currently living out of a hotel while they wait for their house to close.
“We’re working on it,” Knepper said. “We expect to be permanently moved in, if everything goes right, in the middle of April.”
As he waits to get settled, Knepper is leaving no stone unturned in his new role, which began last Wednesday after nearly four years working at the public defender’s office in Scotts Bluff County. Knepper arrives in Columbus looking for a stable place to do his job, and he said he thinks that Platte County is just the place to do it in.
“I had a few items on my list that I needed to check,” Knepper said. “It was a criminal law job. I didn’t want to do divorces or civil law. I wanted to stick with criminal law, which is something that I already have a lot of familiarity with already.”
His job in Platte County is much different than the one he had up in Scotts Bluff, where he was working to defend the public, not the state. Now, the shoe is on the other foot, and his new challenge is to defend the county and protect its people.
“The public defender is more focused on protecting individual rights,” Knepper said. “The county attorney emphasizes protecting society. There are different things that we concentrate on, (but) ultimately we are trying to arrive at sort of the same result.”
Platte County Attorney Carl Hart said that Knepper’s experience, both as a criminal law attorney and in the military working for an adjutant general, gave him an advantage against other candidates seeking the position.
“You’re lucky to get someone who’s experienced, so I think that is a major consideration,” Hart said. “We are grateful that we found somebody with great experience ... to come and join us.”
Hart also mentioned Knepper's military background.
“Anytime you get a veteran through the military turnstile, I think they are certainly deserving of veteran’s preference,” Hart said of Knepper, who served two stints in the U.S. Army (from 1983-1986 and then roughly 1990-1993). “It really was a minor consideration, other than veterans are well-disciplined with the wealth of military experience that usually includes life experience.”
Knepper is getting used to his new position and he hopes to make Platte County his long-term home for his family. He’s also relatively close to relatives who live in Omaha and Lincoln, so he’s happy that he and his team can move closer.
He’s not one to draw any kind of attention to himself, which isn’t unexpected from someone who has served his country with valor. But, on many occasions, actions speak louder than words, and he has done so throughout his career.
“There are always going to be challenges when you’re learning a new job,” Knepper said. “When I began at the public defender’s office, there was a certain degree of nervousness about whether you’re going to learn the ins and outs, but that passes. I expect the same will be true here as well.”
Zach Roth is a reporter for The Columbus Telegram. Reach him via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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