Meet the Candidates – Jennifer Padgett: Striving To Keep New Mexico Safe
Editors Note: This is the first installment of a three part series to introduce voters to our District Attorney candidates. Each candidate has been provided the opportunity to submit an introductory statement and explain why they have chosen to run for DA.
My name is Jennifer Padgett and I am your District Attorney for the First Judicial District.
I have always worked in the public sector, I started my pre-law career in social services working with high-risk teenage mothers and the developmentally disabled. This work taught me the importance of advocacy and led me to law school. After law school, my passion for service led me to prosecution in the Third and the First Judicial District. Naturally, I became a victim-centered prosecutor specializing in crimes against children, domestic violence and sexual assaults. I have jury trial experience in nearly every type of case, and I can honestly tell you that I love being a prosecutor: there are very few professions where you have the ability not only to ensure that justice is sought for victims of crime, but also where you have the opportunity to focus on interventions to divert or rehabilitate offenders.
I was passionate about being a prosecutor, but when I was given the chance to work at the Children Youth and Families Department as Deputy Cabinet Secretary, I knew it was a once in a lifetime opportunity. My time in that agency broadened my perspective and understanding about the challenges that New Mexican Families face every day. I am proud of the work that I accomplished at CYFD and worked tirelessly to implement early childhood, child welfare and juvenile justice reform measures that focused on prevention.
Being appointed as the District Attorney in January truly brought my career in public service full circle. Upon taking office, I immediately began to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the office so that I could address them as quickly as possible.
I recognized that our work in the Magistrate Courts needed an overhaul. Those courts are often the very first interaction that people have with the criminal justice system, and it is a critical point to focus on treatment and rehabilitation. I stopped the practice of pleading cases of domestic violence down to disorderly conduct and I placed a supervising attorney in the Magistrate Court division to ensure that our young and new prosecutors are receiving the guidance and the training that they need. Already, we are seeing great improvements in Magistrate court: we are communicating better with law enforcement, attorneys have a more manageable caseload, and the number of dismissals for DUIs and Domestic Violence are steadily decreasing.
I also promised early on, and have just completed, a series of community conversations, in each of my three counties to engage residents, local law enforcement, service providers and other invested stakeholders in dialogues about public safety. We know that we cannot arrest and prosecute our way out of the problems we are facing, and that we need to come up with bold new initiatives to keep our families safe. I have so many great ideas, and I have already met the most dynamic and amazing community members who are committed to the health and prosperity of our community.
This primary election is critical to continuing the momentum that I have already started in making great changes in the District Attorney’s Office. Over my 16 years in public service, I have grown and changed as a person, as an attorney, and in my political identification, however, my core values and my beliefs have remained constant, and my desire to serve in New Mexico has been unwavering.
I am asking for your vote on June 7, and for your commitment to work with me, to achieve our common goal of keeping our families safe.