District Attorney Michael E. O'Dell

In 1996, O’Dell was appointed District Attorney to replace retiring District Attorney A. Richard Igou. O’Dell ran for, and won, re-election in 1998 and 2004. Both times he ran unopposed. “I have been very privileged to have been elected District Attorney by the people of Cherokee and Dekalb Counties,” O’Dell stated, “and I have worked very hard to live up to the trust they have shown in me. The people of the Ninth Judicial Circuit have a right to expect that their District Attorney will give total commitment and dedication to the office, and I have made it my mission to do just that.”

O’Dell began his prosecutorial career in the District Attorney’s Office in 1981 when he was appointed Deputy District Attorney. He has served continuously in the DA’s office for almost 29 years.

“I have been truly blessed with the best staff of any DA’s Office in America. To all of us, attorneys and clerical staff, alike, merely prosecuting criminals is not enough. We are determined to seek those opportunities to effectuate change for the better in our community, to initiate programs that will improve the lives of our citizens, to adapt to the legal changes in our culture, and to be on the cutting edge in developing solutions to the myriad of problems that confront our society.”

The hallmark of O’Dell’s tenure in the District Attorney’s Office has been one of innovation. This trait has led to a number of programs that have proven over time to meet the challenges and demands of our local communities. In 1981, O’Dell started the Child Support Unit for the Ninth Circuit. Collections that first year were just over $5,700. Over $30 million has been collected on behalf of the children of this circuit since. Innovative programs such as wage withholding, tax intercept, and Project Fugitive (2004) have kept the Ninth Circuit near the top in nearly every state child support collections category. Recognizing O’Dell’s leadership in advocating on behalf of children in Alabama, O’Dell was honored in 2002 by the District Attorneys Association and the Alabama Department of Human Resources with the prestigious John Hulet Lifetime Achievement Award. In 1984, in response to a crisis of bad checks forcing many merchants out of business, O’Dell created the Worthless Check Unit, which has since collected over $20 million in fees and restitution to area merchants. It was this same vision that led O’Dell to co-found the Dekalb County Children’s Advocacy Center in 1991, the Cherokee County Children’s Advocacy Center in 1999, and the Child Abuse Review Team in 1994.

The alarming rise in the illicit drug trade prompted O’Dell to join other legal professionals to create the Dekalb County Drug Task Force in 1996, to co-found the Dekalb County Drug Court in 1999, and the Cherokee County Drug Court in 2004. Also in 2004, O’Dell created the Drug-Endangered Children Program to deal with the dramatic increase of children being found in homes where methamphetamine was being cooked. O’Dell’s office was instrumental in the creation of the Partnership for a Drug-Free Dekalb in1999 and its sister organization in Cherokee County in 2003.

Other areas of concern in recent years led O’Dell to start a Domestic Violence Initiative in 2004 and a Senior Citizens Fraud and Elder Abuse Unit in 2005.

In 2007, O’Dell, working with other community leaders, successfully prevented a Methadone Clinic from opening in Dekalb County.

His most recent venture has been the aggressive Zerometh Campaign that he started in Dekalb and Cherokee Counties in the Spring of 2009 with the goal of education and prevention aimed at our youth. As a prosecutor, O’Dell has been active on a statewide basis, serving on state boards and associations such as the Alabama Child Support Association; the Alabama State Children’s Policy Council; the Alabama State Child Death Review Team; the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center Commission; the State Forensic Advisory Committee; the Governor’s Task Force on Juvenile Justice; the Alabama District Attorneys’ Association Executive Committee (ADAA); ADAA President (2005-2006); and the Alabama Association of Drug Court Professionals.

Legislation has also been an area where O’Dell has had a positive impact on the citizens of his circuit and state.

Nearly every major piece of legislation in Alabama dealing with methamphetamine has originated in his office.

He was involved in passage of the Brody Bill, in 2006, which granted “personhood” to unborn babies; the Neelley Bill, in 2003, which provides that anyone convicted of a capital offense and sentenced to death, whose sentence is commuted by the Governor, will never be eligible for parole; the toughest child predator and child pornography laws in the nation; and the strengthening of the laws dealing with Identity Theft, just to name a few.

Locally, O’Dell is a charter member of Grace Presbyterian Church in Fort Payne, where he has served as a Deacon, an Elder, librarian, Jr. and Sr., High Sunday School teacher, and Men’s Bible Study leader.

He’s been an active volunteer and board member for the United Giver’s Fund for over 25 years, where he has served as both President and General Campaign Chairman.

O’Dell serves on the Dekalb and Cherokee Counties’ Drug Court Boards and Court Referral Boards, as well as the Ninth Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force Board, and on the Advisory Council for Northeast State Community College.

He and his wife Betsy have been married for 36 years. They have three daughters and three grandchildren