Dena Potter, who has covered public safety and state government for The Associated Press in Virginia, has been named news editor for the news cooperative in Virginia and West Virginia.

The appointment was announced Monday by Lisa Marie Pane, the AP's regional editor for the South, and Dorothy Abernathy, chief of bureau for both states.

Potter, 32, has served as acting news editor for the two states since July 2011. She started with the AP in Richmond in 2005 as night supervisor and later became the crime and public safety reporter and covered the General Assembly. Before coming to the AP, she was editor of the Appalachian News-Express in Pikeville, Ky. She began her career in journalism as editor of The Eastern Progress at Eastern Kentucky University. She also completed internships with the AP in Louisville, Ky., The Indianapolis Star and the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader.

She succeeds Brian Farkas, who left the AP in 2011.

"Dena has been battle tested during her time as interim news editor _ from a shooting on Virginia Tech's campus to natural disasters like Hurricane Irene and last year's earthquake," Pane said. "She has been a leader with a steady hand who thrives on big news."

"Dena is an outstanding journalist. She is organized, motivated and works well with others," said Abernathy. "Members already have benefited from improvements she has made in planning and communication."

Potter, who grew up in the mountains of Pike County, Ky., has a bachelor's degree from Eastern Kentucky University. She and her husband, David, live in Chesterfield.