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Attorneys of the Year: Tony Palumbo

Anoka County Attorney

Tony Palumbo has been a mainstay at the Anoka County attorney’s office for 36 years. Palumbo, 61, was hired as a law clerk and became an assistant Anoka County attorney prosecuting criminal cases. He was known as an aggressive attorney but sensitive to victims.

“I was taught very early on that every time you pick up a file, that’ somebody’s life,” he says.

Palumbo later moved to the civil division. He was elected Anoka County attorney in 2010, defeating his predecessor’s son, Brad Johnson. The Johnson family ran the Anoka County attorney’s office for 60 years.

“It was a big deal, especially for a kid coming from St. Paul with an Italian last name,” Palumbo says. “I had to do a lot of work, but through the years I maintained contacts in the community including various boards and charities. I felt it was important as a government lawyer to have contact with the community.”

One of Palumbo’s most rewarding community contributions is cooking dinners with former Metropolitan Council member Natalie Haas Steffen and auctioning them for charitable causes. They’ve raised thousands of dollars for programs serving Anoka County residents.

Palumbo leads a staff of 106, including 40 attorneys. Key accomplishments include launching a group to address elder abuse and financial exploitation and help educate Minnesotans about the issue. The Minnesota SAFE Elders Initiative created a tool kit with a video and training materials and an app for first responders on the cases.

Domestic abuse is a top priority for Palumbo, who leads the Anoka County Lethality Assessment Program. All county law enforcement officers now administer a risk assessment survey when responding to domestic violence calls to help identify if victims are at a higher risk for lethal violence.  In response to the county’s growing heroin outbreak, Palumbo is working to establish community forums on heroin.

“One of the benefits of being in public law is you get to do the right thing because my client is the county and my job is to do justice,” Palumbo says.

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