FLORENCE — As the Alabama District Attorney’s Association’s summer conference was winding down last week, Lauderdale County District Attorney Chris Connolly wasn’t thinking about the awards that were being handed out.
So when his name was called as the recipient of the District Attorney of the Year award, he was caught completely off guard.
“I didn’t know I was even nominated,” said Connolly. “I didn’t give (winning) a thought whatsoever. It was a surprise, a total surprise.”
Connolly was recognized for his outstanding duty as a prosecutor by the Alabama District Attorney Investigators Association, which presents awards for DA of the year, assistant DA of the year, and the DA’s investigator of the year.
Connolly is the first district attorney from northwest Alabama to receive the award.
“I don’t know that we have ever had anyone nominated from this area,” said Franklin County District Attorney Joey Rushing. “Chris does a good job. I’m proud of him for winning the award. He represents our area well.”
Larry Smith, a member of the District Attorney Investigators Association, said district attorneys are nominated by a member of the association.
“The investigators have a committee that review the nominations and make the recommendations to the executive director,” Smith said. “This is a very prestigious award, and we take our role very seriously.”
Smith said he has know Connolly for years. He got to make the announcement about the award during the conference.
“Chris is a friend of mine, and I was honored to be there and make the announcement,” Smith said. “He is very active in the community, and he is involved with victims.”
He described Connolly as someone who is “all about doing the right thing.”
Connolly said receiving the award was humbling.
“Getting an honor like this is not an individual award,” he said. “I have tried to surround myself with great people. We have a great staff, and they made this possible.”
Connolly, who was elected in November 2004, was in private practice for 17 years before seeking the district attorney’s job.
“I have the best job in the world,” he said. “When I got this job, it just felt like it was the right fit. I enjoy coming to work most every day.”
Connolly said the job is about “working for the people.”
“This is a very rewarding job,” he said. “One of the more rewarding aspects is being able to help the victims of violent crimes get some measure of justice when they are really struggling to get through the tough times.”
“That’s what makes him the district attorney he is,” Smith said. “He never backs down from a case; he’s always ready to help the victims.”