BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s top public defender has been appointed to serve as Maryland’s next public defender.

Natasha Dartigue, the acting district public defender for Baltimore, will serve a six-year term beginning July 1, the Office of the Public Defender’s board of trustees announced Thursday. Dartigue has been with the agency charged with representing defendants who can’t afford private attorneys since 1996, officials said. She will replace Public Defender Paul DeWolfe, who is retiring after more than 12 year in the role.

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Dartigue said her top priority will be securing funding to hire more attorneys and pay for wage increases for underpaid aides, The Daily Record reported.

“We have support staff workers who would qualify for our services,” Dartigue said. “We need to do better.”

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She said funding is also needed to upgrade the agency’s computer technology.

The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Dartigue, 53, said she is “extremely proud” to be the first Black person to lead the public defender’s office.

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“Representation matters,” she said. “It matters that someone who looks like me can really affect great change throughout the state.”

CBS Baltimore Staff