Moffat County DA reflects on law career, overcoming cancer | CraigDailyPress.com

Moffat County DA reflects on law career, overcoming cancer

Joe Moylan





Moffat County Chief District Attorney Jon Pfeifer smiles at his desk as he chats about his love for the law and the love he has for his family. Pfeifer joined the Moffat County D.A.'s office in Sept. 2008.
Michelle Balleck

Quotable

"You wouldn't have known (he was ill) given his work ethic. He obviously had to take time off for treatment, but he

was still there. He was still working on cases."

— 14th Judicial District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham

In 2005, Moffat County Chief District Attorney Jon Pfeifer was worlds away from Northwest Colorado.

Psychologically, he was even further removed from a career in the legal field.

Recommended Stories For You

Pfeifer was on hiatus from Indiana University, where he had spent the previous year and a half working on a master's degree in Public Administration, while also studying law.

Not sure of what to do with his life and anxious for a change, he and his wife, Emily, decided to join the Peace Corps.

The Montana native suddenly found himself in Panama, where he and Emily started a school and worked with farmers on sustainable agriculture.

It was during this unlikely period of his life that Pfeifer received the motivation he needed to return to the U.S. and earn his law degree.

"My supervisor in the Peace Corps was a lawyer," Pfeifer said. "I told her that I was leaning towards a career in public administration. She's the one who convinced me to go back and get into the trenches of law as a public defender or a prosecutor."

Pfeifer said he is happy someone pushed him into the field.

"I love it. I really enjoy what we do, taking facts and applying them to the law," Pfeifer said. "I love our staff and I feel that the work I am doing is meaningful."

Pfeifer's colleagues also are happy to have him on board.

"I feel very fortunate to have Jon in the office," 14th Judicial District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham said. "He's very bright. He's a good attorney, but he is also able to look at all circumstances. He doesn't have knee-jerk responses to cases. He's just an even-keeled person."

Moffat County Attorney Jeremy Snow, who served as a mentor to Pfeifer when he arrived in Craig three years ago, believes it is a calm demeanor that makes Pfeifer an effective prosecutor.

"I'm always impressed with Jon because a lot of people don't expect he'll be a good trial attorney just by looking at him," Snow said. "He doesn't have that fiery persona, but you can see that he is very compelling and he provides the jury with information in a very intelligent way."

After his tour in Panama with the Peace Corps, Pfeifer returned to Indiana University in 2006. He earned a doctorate of Jurisprudence and a master's in Public Administration in 2008.

Pfeifer took the bar exam the following August and was hired by the Moffat County District Attorney's office in September 2008. He and Emily have a 5-year-old daughter, Elijah, and a 2-year-old son, Lincoln, who was born on President's Day.

"Emily and I knew we wanted to live in Colorado," Pfeifer said. "We were looking at the Western Slope when the opportunity to join this office came up.

"I didn't even know I had passed the bar yet because it takes about a month to get the results."

Pfeifer made a quick impression with his supervisors and rose through the D.A. ranks quickly. He was promoted to Chief District Attorney of the Moffat County office in December.

"Jon was made chief within six months after I left to join the county side," Snow said. "I think that says a lot about him. Liz doesn't make you chief just because she needs somebody."

Although Pfeifer would say he has been fortunate in both his personal and professional lives, his success has not come without some pain. In December 2009 he was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma and capillary carcinoma.

Pfeifer had his thyroid removed, went through chemotherapy once every two weeks for eight months, and underwent radioactive iodine treatment as well as a month's worth of radiation treatment in Denver.

"Radioactive iodine treatment sounds a lot worse than it is," Pfeifer said. "Really, all you do is take a pill and you're radioactive.

"Chemotherapy was tough, though and it took a lot out of me. I wasn't doing a whole lot at that time."

Pfeifer is now cancer free, yet the way he coped with the disease left a lingering impression on his coworkers.

"To think that he could fight cancer, have treatments on a regular basis and, for the most part, completely carry his load is really impressive," Snow said. "We were there to help, but I picked up very, very little of his work, and I think that says a lot about how efficient and what a hard worker Jon is.

"I think a lot of people would have said, 'Hey, I have cancer' and just checked out, but not Jon."

Oldham agrees.

"I can't even begin to imagine what he was going through," Oldham said. "It was a hard time for the office to watch him go through that, but he has such a positive attitude.

"You wouldn't have known (he was ill) given his work ethic. He obviously had to take time off for treatment, but he was still there. He was still working on cases."

And, during the course of his career, Pfeifer has done more than just build his resume.

"I wouldn't say we became friends instantly, but certainly within a week of working together," Snow said. "I still consider him a very close, personal friend. He's a really good guy."

Click here to have the print version of the Craig Daily Press delivered to your home.

Quotable

“You wouldn’t have known (he was ill) given his work ethic. He obviously had to take time off for treatment, but he

was still there. He was still working on cases.”

— 14th Judicial District Attorney Elizabeth Oldham

Go back to article