Assistant Washington County Attorney Kevin Magnuson said Wednesday he plans to run for county attorney when Pete Orput retires at the end of the year, and he already has Orput's support.

Magnuson, a Lake Elmo native who joined Orput's office in 2019, worked in civil litigation and criminal defense for many years with private Twin Cities firms before he was recruited by Orput.

"The county attorney has a tremendous amount of influence on law enforcement and how it's done, and I really care about doing the right thing and doing it the right way," Magnuson said.

Fighting violent crime and drug dealers would be a priority, along with so-called "flash mob" crimes that arise from social media. Magnuson said he would use all the laws available to fight tough criminals but also seek alternatives to prison when appropriate.

"I want to ensure that violent, serious criminals are held to account," he said, "but at the same time, I want to be nuanced and thoughtful and deliberate about how we do that … we can't incarcerate our way out of our problems. So we need the right size hammer for the right size nail."

In a statement, Orput praised Magnuson's temperament and judgment. "Kevin is a brilliant lawyer, terrific leader, and committed public servant," Orput said.

A 1990 graduate of Wheaton College, Magnuson served as an officer in the Army, earned a master's degree in philosophy while studying in Germany and Belgium, and graduated from the University of Minnesota law school in 1999.

He has worked for Briggs and Morgan; Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi; and Kelley, Wolter & Scott.

Working for attorney Doug Kelley in the early 2000s, Magnuson was among the team of lawyers searching for money stolen by disgraced Twin Cities businessman Tom Petters in a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme.

He has briefed and argued cases in federal court and at the U.S. Supreme Court. He lives in Lake Elmo with his wife and two children.