Berrien County prosecutor passes the baton

NOW: Berrien County prosecutor passes the baton


ST. JOSEPH, Mich. -- A change at the top for the Berrien County prosecutor.

After 32 years with the office, Mike Sepic is retiring this week and his top assistant, Steve Pierangeli, is taking over after running unopposed in the November election.

Both men have had similar paths – born and raised near Detroit, having a passion for civil service and spending virtually their entire careers in Berrien County.

But while Pierangeli said he’s always wanted to be a prosecutor, for Sepic, the choice wasn’t obvious until he experienced it first-hand.

“Once I got a taste of what a prosecutor does it overtakes you,” said Sepic.

Sepic came to work at the office in 1988, not quite sure if this was where he’d want to lay down roots.

But by the time he was elected Chief Prosecutor in 2013, his passion for criminal justice was clear.

“I love the courtroom experience, but when you also see the impact it has on people when you’re acting in a way that gives them closure, help, a sense of justice, you can’t beat the feeling,” said Sepic.

But he says after celebrating his 70th birthday – and good health – this year, it was time to let his right hand man take over.

Steve Pierangeli is the current Chief Assistant Prosecuting Attorney and said he’s known his path ever since he visited his older brother, also a prosecutor, at his office in Kalamazoo.

“I followed him around, watched everything he got to do and I said ‘That’s what I want to do for a living,’” said Pierangeli.

But careers in civil service can be thankless jobs – so what drives him?

“I can have a positive impact on the community where I live, raise my family and that’s what I loved about it and still to this day love about it,” said Pierangeli.

Pierangeli will also face unprecedented circumstances, as the court tries to manage the backload from delayed trials and permanent changes the pandemic may bring.

“A lot of the hearings are done via Zoom now, I think some of that will be here to stay, if we can accomplish the same thing without people having to travel across the state, I’m all for it,” said Pierangeli.

And as the transition becomes official Dec. 31, both men share a similar admiration for each other.

“It’s great to have Mr. Sepic still here, there’s so much wisdom he has and I know even next year he’s always around if I need to talk,” said Pierangeli.

“Having been in the office so long,  I certainly want to leave it in good hands and have every confidence that the culture here will continue with Steve,” said Sepic.

Typically, the courthouse would hold a retirement party for Sepic but there are no plans right now due to the pandemic – however, they still hope to do something in the spring to celebrate both men.

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