A former, longtime prosecutor who now works in private practice threw his hat into the ring Thursday for Roanoke County commonwealth’s attorney.

Dirk Padgett, 57, vowed to bring a new energy to that office and to ramp up the pursuit of drug dealers, child predators and others who prey on the community.

“I want these criminals to know that, when you break the law in Roanoke County, somebody is waiting for you,” he said. “… I’m going to come down hard on them.”

This is Padgett’s first run for public office. He currently has a private practice specializing in criminal defense and family law.

He’s also worked as a prosecutor both at the local level in Bedford County, where he served for 13 years, and at the federal level with the military, in the U.S. Navy prosecutor’s office, where his portfolio included handling terrorism cases.

On Thursday, flanked by family and supporters, Padgett described himself as a tough but fair presence in the courtroom.

“As a prosecutor, I don’t believe in cookie-cutter justice,” he said. “… You deal with every case on its own merits. That’s justice.”

At the same time, Padgett said he’d give no quarter to those who commit crime in the Roanoke Valley. If elected, he said he’d work to strengthen regional cooperation and solidify a unified front with surrounding jurisdictions.

He also outlined plans to put more focus on crimes against children, an issue he worked on in Bedford County, where the sheriff’s office spearheads a regional task force investigating online predators.

Supporters on hand for Padgett’s campaign kick-off included Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown.

Padgett, who plans to run as an independent, is the first to publicly launch his campaign for Roanoke County commonwealth’s attorney.

Other announcements are expected. The office’s longtime incumbent, Randy Leach, retired in January.

The commonwealth’s attorney is one of five independently elected constitutional offices in the county. The office carries a four-year term and is paid an annual minimum of $135,449.

Election Day is Nov. 5. Other offices that will be on the ballot in Roanoke County include: three seats on the board of supervisors, two school board seats, sheriff, treasurer and revenue commissioner.

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