VIGO COUNTY, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) — Note: For equal-time purposes, a random number generator was used to determine whether the incumbent or the other candidate would be mentioned first in our election sit-down series. The new candidate will be featured first in all of the races covered in the series.

If elected Vigo County’s next prosecutor, Johnny Vaughn said he will use his upbringing as motivation to be equitable.

“I grew up in a background, my parents, my family members were in trouble,” Vaughn said. “I just, I want to make a difference for people like that and I want to be fair.”

Vaughn’s education took him from McLean Alternative High School in Terre Haute, to Ivy Tech Community College, onto Indiana State University and then to law school at IU’s Indianapolis campus.

He now practices criminal law.

“I’ve been a criminal attorney for over a year now,” Vaughn said. “And I have so much life experience around the law and around criminal justice that makes up for what I lack in the actual legal background.”

Current Vigo County Prosecutor Terry Modesitt, Vaughn’s opponent, said lengthy legal experience is key to being prepared for the prosecutor role.

“I was 49 and had been a trial deputy here at the Prosecutor’s Office for 22 years and had a private practice for 25 years before I decided to run for prosecuting attorney,” Modesitt said.

Modesitt said the role also entails management of 50 employees and budgets for multiple departments, from the Prosecutor’s Office itself, to Adult Protective Services, to Victims’ Assistance.

Vaughn said his priority if elected will be to be present both at the office and out in public.

“I will be in the courtrooms,” Vaughn said. “I will be at every initial hearing for the defendant to ensure the bond is fair and appropriate. I will be accessible to the public.”

Modesitt’s goals, if re-elected, are to finetune management of the backlog of cases that had grown to around 4,500 during the COVID-19 pandemic and continue to be efficient in the overall prosecution timeline to avoid jail overcrowding.

“Let’s try to be as efficient as possible moving forward even once we get in the new jail,” Modesitt said. “We do not want to get all the prisoners moved in there and then have the same problem going forward.”

Vaughn recently announced he will not prosecute small cannabis use charges if made prosecutor in order to focus on violent crimes.

Modesitt addressed the drug epidemic in our area, pointing to the growth of recovery programming for locals in need of help.

“I support all the drug recovery programs here locally, those type of things too,” Modesitt said. “If we can get some people, you know, off of the drugs and now live a law-abiding life going forth and be a productive citizen, then that’s a win-win for everybody.”

Modesitt and Vaughn face off on November 8.