Catherine Sumner Findley said she would bring to the job of Bulloch County solicitor-general a commitment to being a leading prosecutor in Bulloch County that she literally foreshadowed as a student in eighth grade.
By the end of her final year of law school, she had interned as a prosecutor in two judicial circuits, actively prosecuting cases, and won an award as the top prosecutor-in-training in her class.
Today and for the past six years an Ogeechee Judicial Circuit assistant district attorney, Findley is one of three candidates seeking the elected position of solicitor-general, lead prosecutor of misdemeanor cases in Bulloch County State Court.
"I've only ever wanted to be a prosecutor, and a prosecutor here in Bulloch County, specifically," Findley said in a phone interview. "So I actually, even the summer of law school when I was out of school, I came back and interned in the DA's office here in Statesboro, and I actually shadowed with the DA's office in Statesboro for my eighth-grade career day."
The other candidates for solicitor-general are Benjamin "Ben" Edwards, who is also an Ogeechee Circuit assistant DA, and Mark A. Lanier, the current State Court assistant solicitor. Voters in the May 19 Republican primary will choose, with a July 21 runoff possible.
➤ Coming Tuesday: A profile of candidate Mark A. Lanier
As an assistant DA of the four-county circuit, Findley is assigned as lead prosecuting attorney in Bulloch County Superior Court for felony cases originating from the Bulloch County Sheriff's Office, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Georgia State Patrol.
She has successfully prosecuted cases involving murder, rape, armed robbery, sexual offenses against children, vehicular homicide, elder abuse and exploitation, drug distribution, burglary, theft, and financial crimes. These include some cases of murder, rape and crimes against children in which she secured life sentences against those convicted, she noted in an announcement of her candidacy.
As Findley acknowledges, State Court, where the solicitor-general and assistant solicitor prosecute only misdemeanors, is different. These offenses range from crimes involving family violence down to ticketed traffic violations. State Court penalties include fines up to $1,000 and jail time up to one year.
"I am fully of the belief that every case needs to be individually assessed based on its merits, based on the evidence and based on what the law requires in those cases," Findley said.
As a prosecuting attorney, she has also had the opportunity to work with the law enforcement officers in Bulloch County, even providing training for them, and has "learned to work those cases through that lens," she summed up.
"And I think that is required whether you are looking at a misdemeanor case or whether you're looking at a felony case," Findley said.
The role of State Court solicitor-general would give her the opportunity to interact with a wider cross-section of the community, because more people are charged with, and affected by, misdemeanors than are prosecuted for crimes such as murder in Superior Court, she observed.
"So there's an opportunity there to serve the citizens of Bulloch County on a wider range, to provide services such as rehabilitation, to work with them on an individual, case-by-case basis, and to hopefully make an impact there both for victims and for those that are charged," Findley said.
A 2006 Statesboro High School graduate, Findley played varsity basketball all four years and was a three-year letterman. She has been a Bulloch County resident since age 5, when she started kindergarten at Sallie Zetterower Elementary School. Her family has owned and operated the PoJo's Country Store in Statesboro for more than 15 years.
She attained a bachelor's degree in political science, graduating with honors, from Georgia Southern. Before attending law school, she worked as a constituency services intern for former U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson in Washington, D.C., and as a courier for Franklin, Taulbee, Rushing, Snipes & Marsh in Statesboro.
While at the University of Georgia School of Law, she interned as a prosecutor with the Ocmulgee Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office in Madison, as well as, during the summer, the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney's Office in Statesboro. In 2014, the same year she received her law degree, Findley was named the law school's Prosecutorial Clinician of the Year.
Her goal has always been "to be in a role of prosecutorial leadership here in Bulloch County," she said.
When she was growing up her grandfather, Jimmy P. Sumner Sr., impressed on her the need to use any talents she'd been given in service to the community, Findley said. Also a Bulloch County resident, Sumner retired as a Georgia Division of Family and Children Services district director after a 36-year public service career.
Findley, now 32, has served as president and vice president of the Bulloch County Bar Association. She is a graduate of both the Lynda Brannen Williamson Leadership Academy and Leadership Bulloch. She serves as a Sunday school teacher at First Baptist Church, where she has also been a Wednesday night group leader for the Children's Ministry.
In 2017 Findley chaired a fundraising event that raised more than $25,000 both to assist a local family affected by leukemia and benefit the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.
She has been married to her husband, Spenser Findley, for four years. They are the parents of one son, Sam, now 10 months old.