At the end of the month, he’ll retire from full-time prosecution.
“It will certainly be different. My grown-up, real professional career has always been here (at the DA’s office),” Moss said.
On Friday, around a hundred fellow prosecutors, judges, attorneys, local elected officials, law enforcement officers, and friends and family crammed the Historic Marble Courthouse courtroom in downtown Canton to pay tribute and wish Moss well.
Moss was first elected District Attorney in 1988. For eight years before, he worked as an assistant prosecutor in the DA’s office.
Moss attended law school at night as a young adult and intended to work in the DA’s office for a few years to gain trial experience.
“I thought I would get that experience, move on to private practice, and make a career and some big bucks. But then something happened, and I found out that this work is important to do,” he said. “I fully expected to be a small-town country lawyer.”
When Moss began working at the DA’s office, Cherokee County was part of the five-county Blue Ridge Judicial Circuit, which also included Forsyth, Pickens, Fannin and Gilmer counties. In 1983, Forsyth and Cherokee broke off into a two-county circuit, with Cherokee and Forsyth later becoming standalone circuits.
“The whole (five-county) circuit had about half the population this county alone does now,” Moss said.
Over the years, Moss has seen a rise in the number of severe crimes in Cherokee County.
“I’m particularly concerned about the safety of our children and about domestic violence. We have seen a wave of drug abuse unlike anything I’d seen before,” he said. “There’s seldom a term of court when we don’t have a number of cases involving child victims and drug cases.”
The 2011 murder of Jorelys Rivera, a 7-year-old found murdered in a vacant unit of the apartment complex where she lived, was what Moss called the most horrific case of his career.
“I have worked a lot of child murders, and those are tough to deal with, tough on the emotions. But this was a type of crime I had never seen before,” he said.
The stress of prosecution does take a toll on prosecutors and their families, Moss said.
“I can’t tell you that, for my entire career, I’ve never had burnout, because I have,” he said. “But this is my job. This is the thing I was probably born for and was certainly chosen for.”
As far as crime trends, drug activity has become more “sophisticated” in recent years, according to Moss. The number of juvenile cases being tried in the county has also increased.
But Moss said he’s encouraged by the upcoming start of a new drug accountability program in January.
“Over the years, it’s become obvious that what we’re doing hasn’t been completely effective. We’re criminalizing an entire generation, and we’ve got to do something to make them into productive members of society.”
Moss said he hopes to do some part-time work in the drug accountability court and maybe some private practice.
“It’s hard to turn the juice off. Some of us never do turn the juice off,” he said.
In retirement, there’s at least one new challenge Moss will take on: earlier this year, he started raising cows.
“It’s something I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid,” he said.
He also hopes to spend more time with his wife, three children and two grandchildren.
While Moss is leaving public office, he’ll still be close to the political sphere.
Moss’s wife, Jessica Moss, was appointed Cherokee County solicitor general earlier this year by Gov. Nathan Deal.
Shannon Wallace, chief assistant DA, will take over the office in January after running unopposed for the seat in the July primary.
“I’m very pleased for Shannon to be succeeding me. I’ve supported her from the very beginning. She’ll bring a fresh breath of youth and vitality,” he said.
The DA’s office employs more than 40 people, including 11 assistant prosecutors.
“I’ve had remarkable people work with and for me. Anything I’ve accomplished, I attribute more to their hard work than mine,” Moss said.