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Ventura County

D.A. Looking Forward to Life on Ranch

November 17, 2001|DARYL KELLEY and TRACY WILSON | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

When Dist. Atty. Mike Bradbury hits the trail for good next year, the Ojai cowboy expects to move on to opportunities that fit nicely with his desire to spend more time with his wife and two young sons at their Hang'em High Ranch.

"My future will be ranch- and family-oriented," Bradbury said Friday. "My focus right now is on running the district attorney's office for the next year."

Bradbury, 59, a finalist for the U.S. attorney's job in Los Angeles, said the Bush administration's likely selection of Los Angeles judge Debra Yang is a good decision.

Even before he lost his bid for U.S. attorney, Bradbury said he had mixed feelings about a job that would require him to commute to Los Angeles each day. At first, he didn't push for the federal prosecutor's job, but Rep. Elton Gallegly (R-Simi Valley) strongly supported him as a candidate.

Now Bradbury says he is not interested in becoming a judge on the U.S. District Court in Los Angeles, which has several vacancies. Administration officials interviewed him for that post when they flew him to Washington to talk about the U.S. attorney's job.

What he wants, Bradbury said, is to toil on his small Ojai horse ranch while leaving plenty of time for his wife, Heidi, and their two sons, Mike Jr., 5, and Sean, 3. The Bradburys are considering adoption of a little girl.

That doesn't mean that Bradbury won't be working on outside projects.

"All I can say is I have opportunities," he said, "and when I retire, I'll consider those options."

Bradbury, a Ventura County prosecutor since 1967 and district attorney since 1978, announced in September that he would not seek another term. He will leave behind a $152,500 job but will take most of that annual payment with him as a retirement benefit.

Nobody sees him riding off into the sunset any time soon.

His longtime friends and colleagues say he has plenty of salable skills as a law enforcement consultant, professional administrator or even as a cowboy.

He is not only a veteran manager of the 600-employee district attorney's office, but also a two-time president of the state District Attorneys Assn. He is a cowboy who helps out friends on their cattle ranches and is an active rancher who owns Arabian and quarter horses. And he is an amateur cowboy poet, who performs publicly.

"He's sure got a lot of options," said Ventura rancher Paul Leavens. "He's a young guy and very talented. He's a smooth guy who really speaks well, so he can do whatever he wants. Or he can stay home with his two little boys."

Superior Court Judge Glen Reiser, once Bradbury's private lawyer, said he doesn't expect him to slow down much.

"I don't think he is going to be at a loss for anything to do," Reiser said. "He's still healthy and vibrant and has a brilliant mind, and he has a wide array of opportunities."

Chief Assistant Dist. Atty. Greg Totten, a former executive with the state prosecutors association, said he has seen many district attorneys move on to new adventures after leaving their posts.

For the best, Totten said, the opportunities are unlimited.

"Some district attorneys will seek judicial appointments, some will become consultants," Totten said. "Others go into private practice."

Totten, who is Bradbury's chosen successor as district attorney, said several top prosecutors became involved in nonprofit groups and mentoring programs, while others went to work for private businesses.

"D.A.s who manage large organizations have a lot of leadership experience, and it is not atypical for them to be sought out by large corporations," Totten said.

"And then some just retire and enjoy their family," he added. "It depends upon the individual."

As for his boss, Totten said: "Mike still has got a lot of energy, a lot of enthusiasm. . . . I expect the opportunities for him are strictly going to depend on what he wants to do."

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