With eight years of experience as an assistant prosecuting attorney, David Wandling hopes his resume will lead voters to elect him as the next Logan County prosecuting attorney on Nov. 3.
Raised in the Hidden Valley community near Chapmanville, Wandling is the son of longtime Logan County attorney and former prosecuting attorney Don Wandling. Running as a Democrat, he is opposed by independent candidate Joe Spradling in the Nov. 3 general election. The winner will replace incumbent John Bennett (D), who chose not to seek re-election after serving for 12 years.
Upon graduating from Chapmanville High School in 1998, Wandling attended West Virginia University for both his undergraduate education and for law school, receiving his law degree in 2005. After graduating law school, he returned to Logan and practiced with his father at the Avis, Witten and Wandling law firm until 2014.
In 2012, Wandling became a part-time prosecuting attorney for the county, which he upgraded to full-time in 2014. In his first two years on the job, he worked cases out of magistrate court and later transitioned into working virtually all the county’s cases involving children, including Child Protective Services.
Over eight years as an assistant prosecutor, Wandling says he has practiced “a little bit of everything” expected from a prosecutor — thousands of misdemeanors, hundreds of felonies, thousands of abuse and neglect cases, forfeiture actions, juvenile detention matters and more.
“I’ve dedicated the better part of my career to helping men, women and children who live here in Logan County, and it’s an opportunity to serve this community,” Wandling said. “ I believe that I can help Logan County. It was a wonderful place to grow up. I don’t think it’s any secret that we’ve fallen on some hard times, and I think that I have the experience and the desire and the drive to get us back to where we feel safe in our neighborhoods.”
As for finances, Wandling says the biggest issue facing the county is the regional jail bill, which he said he will tackle with a balanced approach by utilizing every treatment option available for first-time nonviolent offenders, while simultaneously holding repeat offenders accountable. Those treatment options include Drug Court, Family Court, the Southwestern Regional Day Report Center’s Fresh Start program, the up and coming Family Treatment Court and others.
“It’s not in anyone’s best interest to have addicts being incarcerated over and over and over again,” Wandling said. “We’ve been doing that for the last 45 years. We’re not getting any return on that investment, just go on into your neighborhood and look around. We have to do something differently, and treatment is the alternative.”
Wandling says addiction is the single biggest issue currently facing the county. When his father was prosecuting attorney three decades ago, he said violent crime was an issue; now, it’s at an all-time low, but the court system is stretched to its max more than ever with the amount of drug crimes.
“The jail bill is so high, our jails are overcrowded, the court system is stretched to its limits, law enforcement is dealing with overdoses every single day, we have children being born drug-affected at record numbers ... Over the last 10 years, there’s been a 70% increase in the amount of abuse and neglect cases which have been filed in this county,” Wandling said, “so addiction is the problem, and it permeates into everything that happens inside the courthouse, and I don’t know a single family that hasn’t been affected — mine included.
“I like to think that my professional and personal experience with addiction, in my family and at work, gives me a certain level of empathy, which I can bring into the courtroom,” he added, “and allows me to take a more reasonable approach with the addicts that are filling our jails and our courtrooms.”
Wandling says programs like drug courts need to be expanded, and similar programs that might exist need to be brought into Logan County. He also says the next prosecuting attorney needs to have working relationships with all the programs to maximize their effectiveness.
Wanding says that the prosecuting attorney’s relationship with law enforcement is of “utmost importance,” along with keeping an open line of communication with victims.
“If we’re not on the same page, things aren’t going to get done,” Wandling said. “We’re not going to work cases efficiently. We’re not going to work cases effectively. It’s the same with victims. Cases need to be assigned as they come in to a prosecutor, so a victim has a point of contact within the office. We do a good job trying to communicate with victims right now, but there’s always room with improvement.”
Wandling says he would change the way cases are assigned in the prosecuting attorney’s office to a system called vertical prosecution, which means cases get assigned to a specific prosecutor as they come in.
“Law enforcement will know what prosecutor to get in contact with, same for the victim,” Wandling said. “It allows the prosecutor to learn the strengths and weaknesses of a case the day it is assigned to them, and it will be assigned to them as it comes into magistrate court. It allows them an open line of communication from day one. The system we have now, an assistant prosecutor like myself isn’t getting assigned a case until after it gets through the grand jury phase, so in a lot of ways, we’re playing catch-up with the defense attorney who has had the case from day one.”
Wandling, who lives in Charleston, has faced scrutiny from his opponent over his residence.
“I’m not some outsider,” Wandling said. “I grew up in Chapmanville. I graduated from Chapmanville High School. I was active in my community in high school. The only time I haven’t either lived or worked here is when I was completing my education at West Virginia University. It also has never affected a single day of my job, either in private practice or at the prosecutor’s office.”
Wandling says he has commuted to Logan every day over the past 15 years, logging around 600 miles per week. He explained that the reason he lives in Charleston now is due to his wife working in that area.
“My wife and I — she was my girlfriend at the time — I had just graduated from law school, and she had just earned her master’s degree,” Wandling said. “She ended up with a job in her field in South Charleston, and so one of us was going to have to commute. I thought I was being a good husband when I decided it was going to be me. I thought it was safer, and I thought it was the right thing to do for our family was that I would be the one that drives back and forth since I’m familiar with the area.”
Wandling concluded his interview with The Logan Banner by saying he hopes people choose to vote for “what matters.”
“I’m the candidate that has the experience in the prosecutor’s office,” he said. “I’m the candidate who is trusted by his peers, who is supported by law enforcement and Child Protective Services, and I think that I’m the better man for the job. I just hope people don’t get distracted by things that don’t matter.”