Natasha Irving made history as she took the oath of office on New Year's Day.

Irving is the first female district attorney for the district that includes Knox, Lincoln, Waldo and Sagadahoc counties and only the fourth female district attorney in Maine's history. She is also the first Democrat to hold the post in the Midcoast.

But the Waldoboro attorney said history can be made with reform of the criminal justice system. "As district attorney, I can't be neutral in the face of mass incarceration. I cannot be neutral in the face of the prosecution of the sick for being sick, or the poor for being poor. I cannot be neutral amidst a culture of sexual violence," Irving said in front of about 60 friends, family, supporters and regional public officials.

"We have to take a stand, and today is the day we begin to take action. I'm ready to use these four years for a new era in criminal justice," she said.

Irving, a Democrat, was elected in November, unseating incumbent Republican District Attorney Jonathan Liberman. Liberman has since been hired as an assistant district attorney in Cumberland County.

Irving made mention of local legislators in attendance and said she hoped that they would change "backward" criminal justice laws in Maine.

Elizabeth Mitchell — a dedimus justice, Kennebec County probate judge and the Democratic nominee for governor in 2010 — administered the oath of office to Irving.

During her campaign, Irving stressed the need to focus on restorative justice and criticized the incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders who themselves were addicted to drugs.

Irving was born and raised in Waldoboro.

After college in New Orleans and then law school at the University of Maine School of Law, she worked as a labor organizer, a political organizer and then opened her own law practice four years ago.

The International Union of Painters and Allied Trades paid for the reception held Tuesday at the Samoset Resort.