Henderson County gets a new lead prosecutor January 1 when Scott McKee steps into the district attorney’s role.

McKee says he will have to “hit the ground running” when he takes office.

He said he has not met with outgoing DA Donna Bennett — who he defeated in the March primary — since the November 4 election but has been given access to key personnel on the current staff.

“They’ve kept me in the loop on the big cases,” said McKee, who once worked in the office for Bennett. “We’ve got two recent murders and an intoxication manslaughter case to handle.”

McKee has selected attorney Mark Hall to be his second in command when his tenure begins.

“I selected my first assistant about a month after the primary,” McKee said. “Mark Hall is a great guy and a good friend. He’s kind of laid back, so he complements me well. Mark has tried every type of case.”

McKee will lose Clint Davis, the county-attorney elect, from the current staff and may have a few other slots to fill, as well.

McKee said he has interviewed members of the current staff and has the benefit of having seen many of them in action.

“I’ve worked with most of them when I was there,” McKee said. “I know what kind of employees they are.”

McKee said being allowed to participate in the budget process has yielded a big benefit for his office. He presented the Henderson County Commissioners Court with a request for an investigator and a warrant officer, which were both approved for the 2009 budget.

It is unusual for an electee to present budget requests before taking office. However, McKee said he received special permission from Bennett to take his projected needs to the commissioners.

“I thought I would have to wait a year to get the new staff,” McKee said.

McKee is also familiarizing himself with all of the cases the DA’s Office is working, not just the high profile offenses.

“I’ve asked for a snapshot of all the cases that are pending,” McKee said.

During the campaign, McKee said there were certain types of cases that should always be brought to trial. While he said he didn’t want to issue a blanket statement regarding how certain crimes should be handled by the office, he offered that probation should never be offered in cases of sexual assault against children and drug manufacturing and delivery cases.

He said he doesn’t foresee an overload on the courts when he follows through on that promise.

“The judges have done a real good job of working the backlog of cases,” McKee said. “They move pretty quickly. Generally, a case goes from indictment to trial in about a year.”

Since November 4, McKee has met with many of the law enforcement officials he will be working with in January. He said he’d like to travel with sheriff-elect Ray Nutt to various municipalities.

“I’d like us to meet with the police chiefs around the county and see what we can do for them,” McKee said.

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