DuPage assistant named new Vermilion public defender

 

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DANVILLE — A DuPage County assistant public defender has been tapped to lead the Vermilion County public defender's office.

Vermilion County Presiding Judge Craig DeArmond announced Monday that Michael Mara will succeed Jacqueline Lacy, who has held the post since July 2010.

Lacy was elected state's attorney in November, and she will be sworn into office Dec. 1. Mara's first day as public defender will be Dec. 14.

Mara was selected from among 12 applicants who were interviewed, and following a conference with the other circuit and associate judges, according to DeArmond.

The public defender's office represents people who are charged with a crime and cannot afford an attorney. Roughly 3,000 cases come through the office a year.

Mara will oversee six assistant public defenders and four support staff, and he will administer an annual budget of about $678,000.

DeArmond said Mara has substantial trial experience as well as experience managing other attorneys and dealing with budgetary matters, all aspects of administration in the public defender's office.

Mara was born in Kansas City, Mo., but grew up in Naperville. In 2000, he received a bachelor's degree in political science from Albion College, where he graduated magna cum laude. In 2003, he graduated from the University of Michigan Law School and then joined the DuPage County public defender's office, which currently has 28 attorneys.

Mara said he has been interesting in becoming a chief public defender. So when he heard about the opening in Vermilion County, he decided to apply.

"What I learned is the public defender's office has an amazing group of attorneys. That really sold it," he said from his office in Wheaton. "The reputation of the office is it's very strong, and I'm looking forward to being a part of that."

Mara said he's eager to get to know his staff as well as other Vermilion County Courthouse personnel.

One person he already knows: Lacy, who also worked as a DuPage County assistant public defender before coming to Danville.

"I find her to be very professional, and part of the reason that the office is such a great place is what she's done as public defender," he said, adding he wants to "keep it going."

"We'll be adversaries," he continued. "But I respect her, and I believe she respects me. I'm sure we'll form a good working relationship."

Mara's wife is a nurse practitioner, and the couple have a 3-year-old.

Reporter

Noelle McGee is a Danville-based reporter at The News-Gazette. Her email is nmcgee@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@n_mcgee).