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El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal to retire in June; Christina Sanchez to take office early

by Cindy Ramirez, El Paso Matters
April 15, 2024

Christina Sanchez, who was effectively elected as El Paso County attorney in March, will take the position seven months early.

The El Paso County Commissioners Court on Monday unanimously accepted the resignation of longtime County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal, effective June 7. The court also unanimously approved directing staff to prepare an item to appoint Sanchez to fulfill the remainder of the term through Dec. 31. No date for the official appointment has been set.

“For personal and family reasons, it’s important for me to take an early exit,” Bernal told El Paso Matters after Monday’s meeting. “Working with Christina for 15 years – and since the election, working intensely through the transition – I feel very confident that she’s ready to take over.”

Sanchez, 45, defeated attorney Sergio Saldivar in the March 5 Democratic primary with 69% of the vote. With no Republican or independent challengers in November, Sanchez essentially was elected into office. 

Her term was to begin on Jan. 1, 2025. The elected position is a four-year term and now pays about $226,500 a year, though no specific pay for Sanchez was discussed on Monday.

“Of course I will accept,” Sanchez told El Paso Matters, adding that the Commissioners Court still has to officially appoint her to the position. “I feel fortunate that Jo Anne is still there – and that of course we’ve worked together for so long – that we will have a very smooth transition.”

Christina Sanchez campaigns at the voting center at Cielo Vista Elementary School on Tuesday, March 5. (Ramon Bracamontes/El Paso Matters)

Sanchez has worked at the El Paso County Attorney’s Office for 15 years and will be only the third person to serve in the head position since 1993.

Sanchez said she plans to meet with community stakeholders – including victim advocacy groups, law enforcement and nongovernmental organizations –  and begin preparing to tackle pending issues such as Senate Bill 4 and the next legislative session.

Bernal was appointed in 2009 to replace José Rodríguez, who resigned to run for Senate after 17 years in the position. Bernal was elected without opposition every four years starting in 2012.

El Paso County Attorney Jo Anne Bernal speaks to media in November 2022 after former District Attorney Yvonne Rosales submitted her resignation. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

“We share a value and love of the community and to public service that keeps us dedicated,” Bernal said about her and Sanchez’s longtime service.

The County Attorney’s Office, which serves as the legal representative for the county, prosecutes juvenile criminal cases, enforces county and state environmental and health laws, and provides civil services for victims of family violence and elder abuse. The county attorney oversees more than 90 employees and an annual budget of about $11.8 million.

This article first appeared on El Paso Matters and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

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