March is Women's History Month

There are less than 60 women sheriffs currently serving across the country.

Less than 2% of America's sheriffs are women. Throughout the month of March, we will be highlighting current women sheriffs here and on our social networks. Keep checking back as we update this with more insight and advice from our nation's women sheriffs!

Sheriff Marian Brown

Dallas County, Texas

Elected in 2018

"It is an honor to be a part of the two percent of women who are Female Sheriffs in the United States. Women’s History Month is a time where we acknowledge the ceilings that have been broken but we also focus on the work that still needs to be done.

My passion for law enforcement started with one ride along. My message to any young woman out there is to take a shot at all of the things you want to accomplish. Don’t focus on the fact that there is no one in your profession like you, but focus on doing your job well.

I would like to take the time to encourage young women who would like to join the law enforcement profession. There are three principles I believe carry you throughout your career: integrity, professionalism, and accountability. By carrying these principles, I have been able to accomplish a successful 33 years in law enforcement.

I am honored to be the first African American Sheriff in Dallas County that just so happens to be a woman. My priority is to make sure I leave the door of opportunity open for the next generation of law enforcement professionals."

Sheriff Jennifer Harlow

Orleans County, Vermont

Appointed in 2020

"I have now been in Law Enforcement for approximately 25 years. Since the day I started into my career when I was only 16 years old as a police explorer, I have had to fight for everything I have accomplished. When I say fight I mean I had to work hard and I was always pushing myself to be better. The reason I became involved in law enforcement was that I really wanted to make a difference and help people. I was the only female in my Police Academy class, the only female in my respective department at the time and continued to be the only female until I left in 2008, when I moved to Vermont. Once again, I was the only female in that department as well, and became the first female Sergeant. I was the only female for approximately 16 years when I was appointed by Governor Phil Scott to be the first female Sheriff in Orleans County history, and the third female to serve as Sheriff in the state of Vermont. I am currently the only female Sheriff serving in the state of Vermont. 

I have always considered myself to be very fortunate throughout my career. I have never really thought too much about being the only female in my respective department’s or being the first female Sheriff appointed to Orleans County, until it is brought to my attention. I know I have had to prove myself to my fellow co-workers, but they have also had to prove themselves to me. 

I was given the opportunity to investigate sex crimes in our Special Investigation Unit for approximately eight years. While doing this work I have to say it was the most important work I have done thus far in my career. Helping protect our most vulnerable population has been a blessing for me. I will forever be thankful I had the support from my family and supervisors to continue with the work for as long as I did.

After my tenure as Detective, I returned to patrol and then put in for a Sergeant’s position and was honored to have been chosen to lead my department. I was very grateful for the Sergeant’s position to be a leader in my department as well as in my community.    

I have never felt as though I was being treated differently because I was a woman in law enforcement I have also felt as though I was very well respected within my community. After I was appointed to the position of Sheriff I started to see a change in how I was looked upon and treated by a small number of those in my community. It took me some time and some guidance from my male co-workers and good friends who were watching from the outside to see what was truly happening. I was being questioned more, I was being challenged more often and I had to do a great deal more explaining then I had ever had to do. I took this all with a grain of salt as I have always had to work extra hard for my accomplishments which I am proud of everything I have done and continue to do. I personally would not want anything handed to me and I most certainly would not want something given to me due to my gender.

For a good part of my career I realized that when I would go into schools and present, teach at the academy, instruct self-defense classes for women I was being watched by everyone. I believe I was especially being watched by all of our young girls and women. I want you all to know I have done it and even though it was a long road you can also accomplish anything you set your mind to. I was told that when I was younger but I did not believe it, and now I do. There are days when I sit back and wonder if everything is truly worth what I have gone through. When I think of the young girls and women today, and when I stand up for myself I am standing up for all of you as well and proud to do so. Law enforcement is an honorable profession and if I was given the opportunity to do it all over again I would. 

For the majority of my career I have considered myself a leader and the role of women in law enforcement especially today is so important. We as a country need more women to be involved and hold those important leadership positions as our perspective is one that should not be ignored or taken for granted.

I am proud of who I am, the difference I have made and continue to make in my community, and I am proud to be a woman in law enforcement.

Sheriff Shannan Moon

Nevada County, California

Elected in 2018

"I am incredibly honored to be the Sheriff in my hometown, in the agency I rose through the ranks within.

Law enforcement is such an incredible calling - having the opportunity to help people on what could be the worst day of their life.  Whether they are a victim, witness or suspect - people call on us to respond with care, concern and solutions.

For any ladies that are considering a career in law enforcement- Never underestimate your capabilities and what skills you offer to a community.   And once you enter, don’t change to try to fit in and be one of the guys.  Be yourself, be authentic - it’s what makes you who you are. 

At some point in my career, I shifted my view from “why me” to “why not me”.  With that confidence I started promoting, which gave me more influence in how our services are provided.  My hometown deserves the best services - and I am committed to continually looking at ways to improve.

I am grateful to be where I am today - the first female to be elected Sheriff in Nevada County, California."

Sheriff Melissa Anderson

Armstrong County, Texas

Elected in 2020

"Being a woman in law enforcement is generally more accepted than it used to be. It still presents challenges, but women are often much stronger than they think. The act of balancing a family and a career can be tedious and scary, but as long as you stay focused, it is easily accomplished. To young women interested in law enforcement: weigh the pros and cons. Listen to your heart, and follow it. I knew I wanted to be a police officer since I was three years old. No one could change my mind, and nothing else I tried career-wise seemed to work out. When I was given the opportunity to move forward with the police academy, I jumped on it. I was in my 30’s with three children, and I had to lean on family and friends around me to get through it. I made the decision to work 8 hours a day and attend the academy in the evening and on weekends for eight months. I feel like there is nothing more important than the people who support and surround you, so accept help from them when it is offered. Stay focused, stay strong, and stay wise. Women are needed at every level of law enforcement, from new boots in the field to specialized units to those in administrative positions. Focus on staying fit, active, and healthy as well. Do it for yourself and your fellow officers, because some day your life (and theirs) may depend on your ability to stand your ground. As I like to say, keep your squats low and your standards high. Basically, train for tough times, and always maintain situational awareness. Believe in yourself, and there will not be a single thing you cannot accomplish. I am living proof of that."

Sheriff Ingrid Braun

Mono County, California

Elected in 2014

"Do it. Don’t second guess yourself or wonder if you have the right stuff. Don’t worry what others might think. You can do this. Our law enforcement should reflect the community it serves. We need women like you who want to make a difference."

Sheriff Braun is the first woman sheriff of Mono County.

Sheriff Kandy Fatheree

Summit County, Ohio

Elected in 2020

"As a female leader, I refuse to believe that you can not be both compassionate and strong. Leadership is not a person or a position, it is a complex moral relationship between people based on trust, obligation, commitment, compassion, emotion, and a shared vision of the good. Women leaders never lose sight of this."

Sheriff Fatheree is the first woman sheriff of Summit County.

Sheriff Rosie Rivera

Salt Lake County, Utah

Elected in 2017

“I love being a police officer. No matter the assignment, every day makes me feel connected to my community. This connection is why I wanted to be in law enforcement in the first place and why I have spent 28 years in the  field. As a person of color and a woman I was able to bring a unique perspective to the job. It is that perspective coupled with my passion for my community that have made me successful. As the first female sheriff in Utah, I am honored to be part of the long tradition of women paving the way for other women to enter law enforcement. I hope that women in Salt Lake County and across the country will consider this career.”

Sheriff Stacey Kincaid

Fairfax County, Virginia

Elected in 2013

"As a leader in a profession where women are greatly under-represented, I strongly encourage young women to consider pursuing a career in law enforcement. While it may not be easy, the challenges and outcomes will be tremendously rewarding. Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot be what you want to be or do what you want to do. Listen and learn from those who have come before you and set your own path with confidence, thoughtfulness, integrity and respect. Strive for excellence, not perfection. Be authentic. Always strive to be a positive influence, a role model, for the communities and people you serve."

Sheriff Nancy Hove

Pierce County, Wisconsin

Elected in 2006

"Being a female in law enforcement has been an adventure.

When I started back in the 80's, a female on the street was not common. So I had to prove myself with the other officers that I could do the job. Since then, law enforcement has come a long way and females have been accepted. If you are looking to become a law enforcement officer take the steps and be the best you can be.

Some of the challenges you will face is your physical abilities. You may not be the strongest but then you just improve your other qualities. I started as a road officer and then took on learning dispatch and jail . From there I went back to patrol and became a Dare Officer. I ran for sheriff in 2006 for the county of Pierce. I was told by several people that a female could not be a sheriff. I have been the sheriff for Pierce County for 16 years and holding strong. During most of these years I was the only female sheriff in the state of Wisconsin. At the last election we gained 3 more female officers in the state.

My biggest comment to women joining law enforcement is to push through and prove yourself. You are a great asset to this profession."

Sheriff Michelle Cook

Clay County, Florida

Elected in 2020

"Public service is a righteous calling and there is no greater service than giving back to your community by serving as a law enforcement officer. Women bring perspectives and life experiences that are needed in this profession. I encourage any young woman who wants to make their community better, to consider a career in law enforcement."

Sheriff Cook is the currently the sole woman sheriff in Florida. Prior to being elected Sheriff, she served as Chief of the Atlantic Beach Police Department.

Sheriff Kathy Witt

Fayette County, Kentucky

Elected in 1998

“Above all else, I strive to live a Micah 6:8 life by acting justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with my God and my community.” – Kathy H. Witt, Sheriff

At a young age, my parents instilled in me the idea that I could accomplish anything I set my mind to. I frequently observed my parents serving their community in various roles and I soon realized I was meant to commit my life to public service. For 38 years I have been on the journey of a lifetime serving my community. My journey began in community corrections through the local detention center here in Fayette County. When the opportunity presented for me to continue my journey in law enforcement, I readily accepted a position with the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff. Without regard for my own personal advancement, I volunteered for any and every opportunity that would allow me to expand my service to the community.

After working in every division and at every rank within the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff, I was humbled and honored to be elected the first female Sheriff of Fayette County, Kentucky. I have remained dedicated to this role for twenty-three years and I am grateful to continue to serve as Sheriff.

I consider it a great honor to be among the 2% of women who serve as America’s Sheriffs, but I look forward to a future where Sheriffs and Chiefs are more representative of the diverse mosaic of our country. I embrace every opportunity I am presented to support my colleagues and to encourage aspiring young women to enter the law enforcement field. Women are natural multitaskers who find balance and have the ability to shift seamlessly between their roles in leadership and other roles such as motherhood. Women are critical to law enforcement because law enforcement agencies must be a representation of the community whom we serve. On first encounter, individuals tend to trust people who look like them and appear to have similar life experiences. Increasing the number of women in law enforcement ensures that every agency becomes a reflection of the community that they serve and is key to effective community policing.

I have had the chance to work on numerous local, state, and national committees spanning the criminal justice field and I am grateful to each of the individuals that I have met along the way. I believe that men and women who enter into law enforcement should dedicate their lives to public service and to the protection of others. Citizens place their trust in law enforcement and in return, we must choose to make a difference where we are, where we live and work.

Daily, I am humbled to serve my community as I walk with the diverse team at the Office of the Fayette County Sheriff. They are men and women of character and integrity who have chosen to do good for a living. Doing good for others is not an obligation, but a joy and will forever be the inspiration for my journey to act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with my God and my community. 

Sheriff Sally Hernandez

Travis County, Texas

Elected in 2016

"I was a 15 year-old runaway and I grew up to be a Dispatcher, an Administrative Assistant to the Sheriff, A Deputy Sheriff, a Deputy Constable, a Sergeant/ Investigator, a Chief of Investigations, a Constable and now, a Sheriff. I encourage girls to dream big! Don’t let what other people say about you define you. Go do the right things for the right reasons and you won’t believe the incredible life experiences you’ll have. - And don’t stop until you become all you can be!

Life and career are always full of challenges. Attitude is the key to navigating challenges successfully. I look upon them as opportunities, then I tackle them with great determination. The process becomes less about facing the challenge and more about gaining knowledge and enjoying the reward that comes with victory. Proper perspective allows me to look forward and focus on the blessing.

It's important for all of us to help others, using the knowledge and wisdom we’ve gained through our own life experiences. Each of us has a unique perspective to bring to any given situation. Women in leadership offer a valuable point of view and I look forward to seeing the positive impact they will have in leadership roles for decades to come.

It’s impossible for anyone to independently resolve many of the tough challenges we face in the world today. It takes solid partnerships, honest, open communication and community trust. When we focus on the needs of others and work together to develop solutions, we make our communities stronger and safer."

Pictured, above: Sheriff Sally Hernandez pictured with at their annual Law Enforcement day of camp in 2019 (pre-COVID). The ladies were showing off some “girl power”!

Sheriff Paula Dance

Pitt County, North Carolina

Elected in 2018

Women in law enforcement bring significant value to how we do business. You don’t have to be one of the boys to have a seat at the table.

In 2018, Sheriff Dance became the first African-American female Sheriff ever elected in the state of North Carolina.  She is also the first African-American Sheriff to have been elected in Pitt County, which is the 14th largest county in the state.

Sheriff Dance’s career spans 30 years which began as a patrol officer. Over time, Sheriff Dance worked her way through the ranks, and eventually became 3rd in command with the rank of Major prior to her historical and successful run for Sheriff.

Sheriff Janis Mangum

Jackson County, Georgia

Elected in 2012

"If there is any advice I would give young women who are seeking a career in law enforcement, it would be to take pride in your work, in yourself, and in everything you do daily in your job. You have to always treat people as you would want to be treated or you would want your family to be treated. You have to be firm but fair in all you do. You have to have a servant heart and honor the Oath you take to serve and protect the people and enforce the laws of the State of Georgia. That is my top priority each and every day.

I feel all should work hard to prove they are capable of doing their job. Gender has nothing to do with it or at least it hasn’t hindered my work in law enforcement. I will say there were times it wasn’t easy but I will say it has been well worth it. Challenges will be faced and during those times you will determine if you can handle the challenges that arise. I have had to make many sacrifices during my career, missing time with my family, friends, and time for myself, working whenever being called on, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. I was in Criminal Investigations for 19 years prior to running for Sheriff, specializing in Crimes Against Children. I feel law enforcement is a calling and I know God put me in this position. For that I am thankful.  

I feel it is very important to have women in leadership positions. I feel women bring a different perspective at times to situations that arise. It makes my heart happy to see so many women that are pursuing a career in law enforcement now. When I started in 1985 there were not any females that were in this field.  

Again. I am blessed and honored to serve. When you love what you do, you don’t work a day in your life and I love what I do."

Sheriff Colleen O'Neill

Jefferson County, New York

Elected in 2014

"When young women ask me how hard it is to do this job – a job historically held by men - it's pretty simple in my mind - I don’t think about it. There is one thing I did not talk about about when I was running for sheriff - the fact that I was a woman and that should be a reason to vote for me. The truth is, I did not know there weren't any female sheriffs in New York State. Well into the campaign, a reporter told me that there were no women and he seemed surprised by the fact I didn’t know it. It just honestly did not matter to me. It had nothing to do with the decisions I was making. I think young men and women should consider doing anything that interests them. Obstacles are mostly self imposed. If you think about and talk about ( and complain about) a glass ceiling, it will restrict you and hold you back. If you don’t acknowledge a glass ceiling, it doesn’t exist.

I have, over the years, come to acknowledge that I might be a role model for young women and have learned to embrace that honor. To them I say, 'Say yes to new ideas, take chances, and do not be afraid to fail. I guarantee you, you will be pleasantly surprised. And if it doesn't work out, there is still a positive. You learned something. You are wiser. Admit to yourself that it wasn't a brilliant idea and to others if they were affected. Owning a mistake is an opportunity to show your true colors and earn respect.'"