June 22, 2023

Today, Jackson County Prosecutor Jean Peters Baker announced that she will not seek re-election in November of 2024. She will leave office on January 3rd, 2025 with many accomplishments, which are enumerated here. Baker was appointed prosecutor in May 2011 and elected to the position in November 2012. She has served longer than any other Jackson County prosecutor in modern history and longer than most any other elected official in the state. 

For your convenience, a graphic with highlighted milestones from her time in office is attached as well as a headshot. 

Her prepared remarks from today’s announcement are pasted below in their entirety:

Thank you for being here this afternoon. I want to talk to you today about the Prosecutor’s Office and leadership. I’ve been serving as the Jackson County Prosecutor since 2011 and during that time, I’ve learned so much – I have served longer than any other Jackson County prosecutor in modern history and longer than most any other elected in the state.

Very soon after taking office in 2011, we charged a Catholic Bishop and the local diocese for failing to report suspected child abuse. I was told then that charging the Diocese or the Bishop would destroy my career. I was told that I would be crushed. I believed those warnings – because, at that time, these charges were unprecedented and – to you — I was … untested. 

No one asked me to seek those indictments – instead – that was pressure that I put on myself – and I wholeheartedly believed that a defeat in the next election would occur – leaving me with a little over a year in a job that I loved. I spent the previous 15 years honing my experience as an assistant prosecutor in this very office – trying the toughest cases. I learned the ropes of politics by serving in the State House.  Bluntly, I wanted to keep the Top Role longer than that. It was tempting to listen to threats.

I made a decision, then, that would stick with me – no matter the political fallout, I was going to run the office as I believed necessary. I was not going to allow political favor or political threats or my own ambitions to run my decision making. I have stood by that principal. I have multiple examples of career-ending cases. And here I am.

As for the Bishop’s case – I have absolutely no regrets – not because it worked out – he was convicted and I was re-elected – but because I was willing to pay the price to hold that system accountable – and…to protect kids.

I know this: Victims deserve justice. No matter who they are and even when justice is going to shake up a system. To be a leader means to do what is right, even when faced with death threats, intense political pressure, harsh and unrelenting critiques … and for some of you, even questioning my personhood. I have withstood all that for the privilege of leadership. And I have no regrets.

But today I’m announcing that I will not seek another term as Jackson County Prosecutor. I didn’t come to that decision lightly and my decision has nothing to do with my passion for justice or my love of this community. I was confident that this would be my last term after being re-elected – but – out of respect for this office and my community – I wanted to give that some time before I fully decided. The timing of this announcement has been in the works for many months now so that I could devote my remaining time in office responsibly while encouraging another leader to step up into this incredibly difficult and rewarding role.

I am certain I leave this office stronger than when I found it and will forever be grateful to the people of Jackson County for the experience of a lifetime.

While the public might see a somewhat glamorous side of elected leadership – the cameras, the crowds, the victory parties on election night.

There’s another side that isn’t often seen. The time away from family. The loss of anonymity. The time spent pondering death threats. The mental gymnastics involved in making difficult decisions – which come almost daily. And the hardest of all, carrying the toll of violence.

I’ve cherished this office and this community with everything I had. My love for both has grown, not diminished over time. There have been times when my heart was broken and my spirits crushed, but many more times when my heart was lifted – sometimes simply by the fight for justice.

I’ve long been thinking about the most graceful way to lead and to exit this role. Jackson County deserves someone who is ready to endure each heartbreak and embrace each fight that our justice system requires. I acknowledge how taxing this position is — I have been on-call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since May of 2011 when I bounded into my first term with endless energy. My farm-girl work ethic only allows performance of this job at 110 percent. Jackson County deserves that pace. But my family deserves my attention more than they’ve been used to and I’m ready for a different pace.

I have stood on the shoulders of those who came before me in this role – so it is important that I acknowledge Albert Reiderer, Claire McCaskill and Bob Beaird for their leadership and I will leave this office in the hands of a new steward who I pray will love and cherish it as much as they did.

I want to publicly acknowledge my staff – Dion Sankar – thank you.

And Mike, Theresa, Jennifer, Gina, – and so many others whose shoulders I stand on – thank you — they are the best public servants in the business. I know that is true because I am called so frequently from US Attorneys, Top law firms and even the panel who selects judges for openings. The individuals who work in this office – the victim advocates, investigators, legal assistants, analysts, and attorneys – they are dauntless and dedicated public servants. I trust them to embrace the next leader and offer the same unwavering commitment to an incredibly difficult and often thankless job. Let me sum up my faith in the public servants in this office in this way: if I were a crime victim, I’d want this Jackson County team to fight for me. 

To be clear – I will not be seeking another elected office. Let me be crystal clear about another thing – protecting the innocent, pursuing justice for victims and prosecuting the guilty isn’t for the faint of heart, but it is absolutely worth it.

I’m not done yet. I will continue to fight hard for this community for the next 17 months. And I will fight for this office every day of the next 17 months. Today we started a wellness initiative for staff to ensure that they are ready for the fights ahead. It is my responsibility to take care of them outside of the courtroom too so they are able to withstand those evitable battles and the relentless toll of violence.

Even after I leave this job behind in January 2025, I’ll never forget the lessons I learned. The cases of a woman named Roberta, a captivating woman named Ms. Willie, Damiah White, Kevin Strickland, Daisha Bausby, Brianna Hill, Daisy Coleman and Cameron Lamb are only a few that made me rethink what leadership truly is. 

I mentioned my farmgirl mentality earlier and farmers know that when you properly tend to the soil, you can expect to grow a strong crop. In that vein, I promise that I’ll continue to give 110% until the day I walk out of the office for the last time. That’s what the people of Jackson County deserve. But know this: When grace is needed, I’ll show grace. But when a fight is needed, then I’ll fight with all I got.