Padgett, who has worked for Martinez as part of the governor’s administration in Santa Fe as well as when Martinez was district attorney in Las Cruces, said she was excited and humbled by the appointment. She said being a prosecutor is “where my heart is.”
Padgett succeeds another former boss, current Santa Fe District Attorney Angela “Spence” Pacheco, who is retiring as of the New Year, a year before the end of her second four-year elected term. Padgett said she’ll take over as DA after midnight Thursday and will be formally sworn in on Monday.
Padgett is a registered independent and said she intends to make a campaign run to keep the district attorney’s job, which will be on the primary and general election ballots in 2016.
She said she will make a “well-informed decision” about any party affiliation as a DA candidate. If she decides that the primary election is “incredibly important” in the heavily Democratic 1st Judicial District, she’ll likely run as a Democrat, said Padgett.
Padgett has been working as the administrative services director for the state Children, Youth and Families Department. She also has served as deputy cabinet secretary and acting general counsel at CYFD.
She was an assistant general counsel in the governor’s office under Martinez from 2011 to 2012 and a senior trial prosecutor under Pacheco, charged with prosecuting crimes against children and sexual assaults, from 2010 to 2011. Padgett also was assistant district attorney, under then-District Attorney Martinez, in the 3rd Judicial District in Las Cruces from 2006 to 2010.
Padgett said the management experience she’s gained at CYFD has helped her develop the skill-set need to take the top job at the district attorney’s office.
Padgett was among the attorneys recommended to the governor by the outgoing Pacheco as a potential replacement. Padgett holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of New Mexico and a law degree from St. Mary’s University Law School in San Antonio, Texas.
“I’m delighted that Governor Martinez has appointed Ms. Padgett to replace me,” said Pacheco, a Democrat, in a news release. “Her skills and experience are well-suited to the needs of residents of New Mexico’s 1st Judicial District.” The district includes Santa Fe, Los Alamos and Rio Arriba counties.
Republican Martinez said, “Jennifer Padgett has devoted her career to fighting for children and she has what it takes to build on Spence’s success as district attorney.” Padgett makes about $96,000 a year in her CYFD post. Pacheco’s salary is about $116,000 as she completes her seventh year on the job.