Ann Gardner, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alleghany County, and the City of Covington, is seeking re-election on November 7, 2023.
Gardner has over 30 years of experience as a prosecutor. She has served the citizens of Alleghany County, Covington, Clifton Forge, and Iron Gate for the past 18 years. Beginning in 2005, she served as Alleghany County’s Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney until she became acting Commonwealth’s Attorney in July 2019. She was later elected to office in November of that year.
In the summer of 2019, Gardner contacted the Virginia Supreme Court and invited a representative to travel to Alleghany County with the goal of starting a drug treatment court for our county. With the collaborative effort of law enforcement, prosecutors, judges, government officials, treatment providers and others, that goal became a reality. The Alleghany County/City of Covington Drug Treatment Court Program has been operating since September 2020.
Drug courts cannot exist in Virginia without the consent and participation of the Commonwealth’s Attorney.
“I want to have an impact on the use and distribution of illegal drugs in our community. Drug court, if operated effectively, is another arrow in our quiver with which we can combat the crime and widespread harm fueled by drugs. Taking drug dealers off the streets combined with treating addiction can help exponentially by reducing crime, saving lives, and promoting productive members of society,” Gardner explained.
As Commonwealth’s Attorney, Gardner runs an office staffed with five attorneys and three legal assistants. Together, they represent the citizens of Alleghany County and the City of Covington in all types of criminal cases ranging from traffic matters to homicides and other violent crime.
“We added a fifth attorney to our team early in my term. I am fortunate to have bright, young assistants who have chosen to put their legal skills to work for the benefit of Alleghany County,” Gardner said.
In order to accommodate additional staff, with the help of the county, Gardner was able to renovate her office space in the courthouse in early 2021. “Thanks to the County’s support, we have a more efficient and modernized, professional office space.”
The Commonwealth’s Attorney’s primary responsibility is to handle criminal cases and to address crime in the community with a focus on public safety. This requires working with law enforcement and remaining on-call 24/7 to answer questions and respond to crime scenes if needed.
Gardner works closely with the Alleghany Highlands Drug Task Force with a proactive approach to combating the drug trade. “Through drug prosecutions, we are able to generate revenue for state and county agencies through the Asset Forfeiture Program,” Gardner said.
“Crimes against children pose another danger we want to fight proactively,” Gardner added.
“One of the overwhelming successes in the last year has been working with our newly trained ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) investigator in the Alleghany County Sheriff’s Office to identify child sexual predators and take them off the street. These investigations have brought us all together as a law enforcement team working toward a common goal. It is encouraging to watch virtually every law enforcement agency including the Sheriff’s Office, Covington Police Department, Clifton Forge Police Department, Virginia State Police and Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources work together to arrest these offenders.”
The Commonwealth’s Attorney is charged with seeking justice and, in so doing, represents all the citizens of the county. “In handling criminal prosecutions, we work closely with the victims of those crimes to ensure that their rights and interests are protected,” Gardner explained.
Gardner oversees the Alleghany Highlands Victim Witness Assistance Program which, for many years, has been operated and managed by Director, Lesia Wheeler, who recently retired. “Lesia has done a great service for the victims of Alleghany, Highland, and Bath counties. I hope to hire a new director who will be able to continue with the good work so that our crime victims will continue to have advocates to help them navigate the criminal justice system.”
Gardner graduated from Wake Forest University School of Law in 1990. As a third-year law student, in 1989, she prosecuted her first jury trial in the Roanoke City Commonwealth’s Attorney’s office where she later served as assistant for over a decade.
In 1993, Gardner graduated from the Career Prosecutor Program in Houston, Texas. Chosen in 1999 to serve as faculty for the National College of District Attorneys, Gardner taught Advanced Trial Advocacy to prosecutors from across the United States at the National Advocacy Center in Columbia, South Carolina.
In 2001, Gardner and two other prosecutors founded the Virginia Trial Advocacy program where she trained Virginia prosecutors for 15 years at William and Mary School of Law.
From 2003 to 2005, Gardner entered private practice as an associate in the law firm of Ferris, Eakin and Thomas in Roanoke before resuming her career as a prosecutor in 2005 as Deputy Commonwealth’s Attorney for Alleghany County and the City of Covington.
As a member of the Alleghany Highlands Kiwanis Club, Gardner enjoys participating in community service projects focused on helping children in the Alleghany Highlands.
Gardner has been married for 30 years to former prosecutor, Joel Branscom, who is now a Circuit Court Judge for the 25th Judicial Circuit. Together they have two sons. Gardner enjoys outdoor recreation activities including hiking, kayaking and big game hunting.
“It has been an honor to serve the citizens of Alleghany County and the City of Covington for the last 18 years. I ask for your vote in November. With appreciation for your support and confidence during my first term in office, I look forward to serving another four years. I will work to administer justice in a fair, impartial, and effective manner while making public safety a top priority.”
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