INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Bruce Colton, the longtime state attorney who oversaw prosecution of countless criminal cases in the 19th Judicial Circuit, will not seek re-election this fall, according to a Tuesday announcement.
Colton, 73, will retire at the end of his term in January 2021. Colton began working as an assistant state attorney in 1974, and became state attorney for the four-county area in 1985, officials said.
“Aside from the crisis we are all currently going through, I feel that the state attorney’s office is on a positive course for the future,” Colton, a longtime Vero Beach resident, said in a statement. “I am truly grateful to the citizens of our four counties who have allowed me to serve them and to be part of this office.”
Colton keeps those in mind whose families were impacted by tragedy, including deadly shootings and fatal crashes, and went to the state attorney’s office to seek justice.
“I have never forgotten about those victims and family members to whom in spite of our best efforts we were not able to bring a sense of justice or recovery,” he said.
Chief Assistant State Attorney Tom Bakkedahl was expected to announce Tuesday that he will file election papers for the office of state attorney, covering the 19th Judicial Circuit, officials said.
The 19th Judicial Circuit includes Indian River, Martin, St. Lucie and Okeechobee counties. As the population in the four-county area grew overtime, so did the need for demand and services, Colton said.
Colton said the state attorney’s office grew throughout the years from having 10 attorneys to nearly 60. The office has a staff of about 150 employees.
Colton said the office created specialized divisions overtime to investigate and prosecute major crimes, sex crimes and economic crimes. The Victim’s Services Division is a collaborative effort supported by the four counties, federal and state grants and Indian River State College.
Colton noted the office created specialized courts, including adult and juvenile drug courts, mental health courts and veterans’ courts. The office also implemented the Deferred Prosecution Program for minor offenses.
In an effort to keep up with the digital age, three of the agency’s offices transitioned to a paperless environment within the past year, officials said. The fourth office was also expected to become fully digital by the summer.
“Although I am responsible for the overall running of this office, I do not claim credit for the positive accomplishments which have taken place,” Colton said. “That credit goes to the many talented and dedicated people who have worked here through the years.”