MISSOULA, Mont. -

Former Chief Deputy County Attorney Kirsten Pabst announced plans to enter an upcoming election for Missoula County Attorney.

Pabst, considered by some to be the heir-apparent to the county attorney's seat, confirmed Tuesday evening that she will run for the office.

Current Missoula County Attorney Fred Van Valkenburg made headlines for refusing to participate with a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into sexual assault cases and has announced he plans to retire next year.

Pabst served as a deputy prosecutor in the Missoula County Attorney's Office for 15 years. She's currently a private defense attorney.

She told NBC Montana she wants to "realign the office with community values of cooperation, open conversation and compassion."

"We need more cooperation and less fighting, we need more conversation and transparency and less secrecy," Pabst said during an interview Wednesday. "I think most importantly we need more compassion. Compassion for victims, compassion for defendants, everybody involved in the process should be treated like they are members of our own family."

Jason Marks, a current deputy county attorney, has announced he will run for the spot as well. Both Marks and Pabst are running as Democrats, no Republicans have filed for the 2014 election yet.