Hartsfield running for Forsyth County District Attorney

Denise Hartsfield announced her plans to run for District Attorney (DA) during an event at Sweet Potatoes on Dec. 1, the same day she retired from the bench.

Hartsfield running for Forsyth County District Attorney
December 02
07:41 2021

Retired District Court Judge Denise Hartsfield is looking to take her talents to the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office. Hartsfield, who served five terms as a judge in North Carolina’s 21st Judicial District, announced her plans to run for District Attorney (DA) during an event at Sweet Potatoes on Dec. 1, the same day she retired from the bench. 

“Today I started the first leg of my journey because in about another week I plan to file to run for district attorney of Forsyth County,” said Hartsfield while addressing the crowd at Sweet Potatoes. “…I think there needs to be new ideas, new theories, and new thoughts about what justice looks like in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. I want to paint a picture of justice as I try to serve you in 2023 as the District Attorney of Forsyth County.” 

A native of Winston-Salem, after high school Hartsfield decided to attend Spelman College, where she graduated with a degree in English in 1976. Hartsfield returned to Winston-Salem after undergrad and earned her law degree from Wake Forest University. After she passed the bar, Hartsfield worked as an assistant county attorney here in Forsyth County. 

Before becoming a judge, Hartsfield also served as assistant district attorney and she also worked for the Legal Aid Society of Northwest NC, a statewide nonprofit law firm that provides free legal services in civil matters to low-income people. 

In 2002 Hartsfield was elected to serve in the 21st Judicial District when Judge Roland Hayes decided not to run for re-election. 

During her tenure, Hartsfield made it her mission to help young people throughout the community. For years, she led the juvenile drug treatment center and the juvenile court. She also helped launch several initiatives geared toward ending violent juvenile crime. Earlier this year, Hartsfield helped launch the Forsyth County School-Justice Partnership, an initiative that will provide alternative responses to misbehavior in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools (WS/FCS) and reduce law enforcement involvement in minor school infractions. 

It is unclear who will take Hartsfield’s seat. Gov. Roy Cooper will appoint someone to serve the remainder of Hartsfield’s term, which ends December 2022. 

While talking with The Chronicle outside the restaurant shortly after making her announcement, Hartsfield said she started thinking about running during the 2020 Election. She also discussed the need for more restorative justice initiatives. 

“Election 2020.  That’s when it came clear to me that there needs to be a new structure and a new vibrancy,” Hartsfield said.  

“My prayer has always been ‘God plant me where I can do the most for your people.’ This isn’t about me. I don’t need an ego boost or anything.  My job is to really help God’s people. As a judge by the time the case gets to me, it’s basically too late. But in another position, there can be more restorative justice and keeping people from being in there in the first place.  This is where God has led me to take care of His people.” 

Current Forsyth County District Attorney Jim O’Neil was appointed in November 2009. Prior to his appointment, O’Neil served as assistant district attorney under former DA Tom Keith. 

According to the Forsyth County Board of Elections, candidates looking to run in the 2022 Primary or General Election must file before noon on Dec. 17. 

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Tevin Stinson

Tevin Stinson

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