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Marin County DA Paula Kamena announced Monday she would retire early next year and named her No. 2, Edward Berberian, as her choice to succeed her. Berberian, 57, said it would be “premature” for him to detail any plans for the 40-attorney office because the county’s Board of Supervisors hasn’t started looking for an interim DA yet. Instead, he heaped praise on Kamena, with whom he’s worked closely for nearly two decades. “The county is losing a very fine district attorney,” Berberian said. Kamena, who is retiring for personal reasons, has made clear that she wants the supes to pick Berberian to be the interim DA, and she’d like to see his name on the ballot when her term ends in 2006. “I can’t think of a better person,” Kamena said Tuesday. “Hopefully it will be a seamless change.” Colleagues say that Berberian is a natural choice. He has prosecuted everything from drunk driving to capital cases during his 28-year career at the DA’s office. He was the head of the criminal division for five years and became assistant district attorney in 2003 when the former No. 2, Michael Gridley, retired. “Ed has a hands-on management style and is a good listener,” said Chief Deputy District Attorney Barry Borden. “Ed is the best-qualified candidate to be DA in Marin County.” Marin County Superior Court Presiding Judge Terrence Boren, who was a longtime prosecutor before he joined the bench, supervised Berberian as a trial attorney. “He was a workhorse,” the PJ said. “I always felt he could handle the most difficult cases.” Kamena and Berberian are friends and have worked closely together over the years and even worked together on a capital case. Berberian has led the effort to improve office technology, Kamena said. Public Defender Joseph Spaeth speculated that due to Berberian’s age and long years of service, he might serve for only a short time before he begins planning for retirement. Berberian stressed that if he is chosen to lead the office, he would be around for a while. If he were “lucky enough” to be appointed by the supervisors and elected by the voters, “I would want to do this for a number of years,” he said. Kamena’s impending retirement has sparked speculation that candidates who lost against her in other elections would run again. San Francisco prosecutor Dennis Cashman, San Raphael attorney John Posey Jr. — who ran for DA in 1998 — and Santa Clara patent attorney Thomas Van Zandt — who ran in 2003 — did not return calls for comment. Kamena, 57, became DA after a contentious three-way race in 1998. Then the No. 3 in the office, she had entered the race after DA Jerry Herman was sidelined by a heart attack. In 2003, she weathered a recall campaign, mounted by an unlikely alliance of family law reform proponents and medical marijuana supporters. “I’ve never been a political bird,” Kamena said. “The reason I ran for DA is because I love my office, and at the time it seemed to be the appropriate thing to do.” Spaeth, the public defender, lauded Kamena for being “much more open” to problem-solving courts than her predecessor. With her support, Marin established a drug court and a mental health court, Spaeth said. However, he also noted that defense attorneys would like the DA’s office to relax its “no sentence bargaining” rule. Judge Boren has known Kamena since he helped hire her 21 years ago. “The county should be proud of the work that she’s done.” Kamena said she isn’t sure whether she’ll practice law after she steps down. Her decision was spurred by a stress-related ailment that made her temporarily blind in one eye. “It’s always a hard choice to leave,” the DA said. “I had this event that made me think, ‘What will you do with your life?’” Now Kamena wants to pave a smooth path for Berberian. That influenced the timing of her announcement �� more than a year before the end of her term. “If I waited much longer, there would be turmoil,” Kamena said. It’s unclear what process the Board of Supervisors will use to choose Kamena’s replacement. The board and the county counsel were at a conference Tuesday and unavailable for comment. Chief Deputy County Counsel James Flageollet said that Kamena’s resignation and the search for her successor would be a top priority when the panel returns. Kamena’s last day is Jan. 4.

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