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Black History Month: Meet the first Black Chief Deputy for the Pima County Attorney’s Office

Tamara Mulembo is the first Black Chief Deputy in the 109-year history of the Pima County Attorney’s Office.
Updated: Feb. 1, 2021 at 10:32 PM MST
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TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - For a young Tamara Mulembo, there was only one career path. Other options like being an astronaut, rock star, the normal goals of six year olds, simply would not cut it.

“I was really good at arguing with people, especially at the age of six. For second grade we had career day, and I dressed up as a lawyer. I had a little briefcase, and that was my outfit for career day,” said Mulembo.

Her passion for the profession didn’t age even as she grew. Mulembo was born and raised in Phoenix and attended college in Tucson at the University of Arizona. She received degrees in both English, Spanish, and then a law degree from the James E. Rogers College of Law. Mulembo then worked as a public defender at the local and federal levels for a decade and served as President of the Arizona Minority Bar Association.

All of that continued to pave the way to a career that is a piece of history.

“I worked in the very building I was called to lead as a law clerk,” said Mulembo, who is now the first African American appointed to Chief Deputy in the Attorney’s Office 109-year history.

Mulembo calls her presence a catalyst for change, but emphasizes it’s only the beginning.

“When someone achieves a first, like I have in this situation, people tend to think the work is done. And it’s not, we have a responsibility to make sure the table continues to get more diverse and people continue to have a seat at the table.”

Social injustices and unrest have been in the spotlight across the United States for months now. Mulembo said she continues to be focused on action and not just demonstrations.

“I think a lot of things people do and say are performative, and we aim to show we mean what we say through what we do. And that’s part of the reason why I say its not enough that I’m simply here. We must demonstrate our commitment to action in what we do,” said Mulembo.

Here locally, as the Chief Deputy of the Attorney’s Office, that means legislative change, policy change, and culture change throughout offices.

“I think there are still some things institutionally that need to be addressed head on and unapologetically and that’s what we aim to do.”

In order to push for diversity not just in race, but in backgrounds. It’s a path that she hopes more can join in Pima County and beyond.

“Just because I’m here does not mean our journey is over, it’s far from that. It is our duty our responsibility that more and diverse voices are brought it,” said Mulembo.

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