- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 29, 2015

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - A former prosecutor with close professional ties to New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez was appointed district attorney for Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties on Tuesday to fill a one-year vacancy.

Jennifer Padgett begins work next week as the top prosecutor for New Mexico’s First Judicial District.

District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco is retiring a year before the end of her four-year elected term.

In announcing the appointment, Martinez praised Padgett’s administrative skills and concern for the welfare of children.

Padgett has worked as an executive appointee in administrative and legal positions at New Mexico’s Children, Youth and Families Department since 2012. She and the Republican governor first worked together in 2006 when Martinez was district attorney in Dona Ana County and hired Padgett as a recent law school graduate.

The general election next November will determine who serves the next four-year term as Santa Fe district attorney.

Padgett said she plans to campaign for the position. The 39-year-old is registered as an independent but said she would most likely seek the Democratic Party nomination. The filing deadline is March 8.

“My prosecutorial philosophy is that I have a very victim-centered approach,” she said. “I weigh that very equally with, of course, the public’s safety.”

The Albuquerque native previously served a stint from 2010-2011 in the Santa Fe district attorney’s office prosecuting crimes against children and sexual assaults. She also worked as assistant general counsel for Martinez’s office.

Pacheco worked nearly two decades in the First Judicial District attorney’s office and was elected twice as district attorney.

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