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Woodbury resident Clayton Robinson Jr. has been practicing law for more than 30 years. He announced his candidacy last week for Washington County Attorney to replace the retiring Doug Johnson. Johnson has expressed his public support for Robinson.

Robinson brings career, life experience to county attorney candidacy

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Clayton Robinson has a legal career that spans four decades. He's worked as a prosecutor for the Ramsey County Attorney's Office, where he currently serves in a management position. He's also worked for the state Attorney General's Office, the city of St. Paul and for a short time in the private practice.

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But although Robinson believes his career arc makes him a good candidate for Washington County Attorney, that's not what is driving his decision to run next fall to replace retiring county attorney Doug Johnson.

You have to go further back. To when Robinson was a child living in Chicago. His father was a detective for the Chicago Police Department and was fatally shot in the line of duty when Robinson was just 13 years of age.

Out of that painful experience and the circumstances of his fathers death Robinson made

"the decision to devote my legal career to working in the public interest and in doing the right thing."

The Woodbury resident hopes to bring a career of prosecutorial work and, more recently, managerial experience to the county attorney's office to Washington County.

Last week Robinson announced he would be seeking to replace retiring county attorney Doug Johnson as the county's top lawyer.

And while Robinson has no challengers as of yet who have publicly declared their candidacy, he said he is comforted he was able to receive Johnson's blessing for his campaign.

Washington County Attorney Johnson said Robinson has the qualities of a proven leader who can make difficult decisions that are just and fair.

"Clayton Robinson has these qualities and would make a great county attorney," Johnson said in his official endorsement of Robinson's candidacy. "These are just a few of the many great qualities that have caused me to give my enthusiastic support to Clayton Robinson."

Trekking the county

With the election for Washington County Attorney well more than a year away, Robinson said he knows it may seem early to throw his hat in the race, but he said he wants to spend adequate time in each of Washington County's distinct communities, from the farthest north reaches in Forest Lake to the southern tip in Denmark Township.

"Washington County is much larger than surrounding counties in terms of area, Robinson said. "I want to make sure I have the greatest amount of opportunity to attend different community events and functions so people have a chance to meet me and talk to me."

But don't think Robinson is unfamiliar with the climate in the county. The married father of a recent Woodbury High School graduate has lived in Woodbury for six years and although he has done most of his work in the more urban Ramsey County, said he understands the needs for Washington County.

Robinson said he is a strong advocate employing the use of technology to develop a data base system unless that monitors crime trends and other trends within the community.

"You really can't go to a funding source like the Washington County Board of Commissioners and request funding for the community without supporting it with some form of empirical data," Robinson said. "I want the policy makers as well as the citizenry to know exactly what our office will be doing in terms of crime prevention and activities that we are undertaking to try and address those issues in an aggressive way."

Happy in Woodbury

Robinson and his wife Barbara, who works in the mortgage industry, moved to Woodbury six years ago with their daughter Alayna and he said he's been more than happy with the relocation to Washington County, because of its sense of community.

"I've lived in very large, densely populated communities and I see a sense of community here that is much different than some of those larger places," he said. "People interact with each other. I can see the degree of caring about other individuals. I like that kind of lifestyle."

Although Robinson grew up in one of the largest cities in the country in Chicago, he studied law at Drake University, which provided a quieter setting that he appreciated.

"I got a scholarship to study at Drake and it was a good Midwestern setting, with good Midwestern values that I like," he said.

After graduating from law school Robinson was recruited to work for the state Attorney General's Office under Warren Spannaus. Robinson said it didn't take long before he made the Twin Cities his home.

Thirty-some years later Robinson said he is ready to move onto the next stage of his career.

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