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UPDATE: Sandra Hutchens Publicly Sworn in as Sheriff

UPDATE: Sandra Hutchens Publicly Sworn in as Sheriff 

Some 2,000 watch as first female sheriff is sworn in at Old Courthouse in Santa Ana.

June 24, 2008

By PEGGY LOWE
The Orange County Register

SANTA ANA – Sheriff Sandra Hutchens was publicly sworn in as Orange County's first female top officer today in a large public ceremony held under sunny skies with calls for an end of "dark days."

More than 2,000 people filled the grounds of the Old County Courthouse to watch Hutchens, dressed in her new uniform and wearing a side arm, swear on a Bible held by her husband, Larry.

Supervisor Bill Campbell said it had been 163 days since the federal indictment of former Sheriff Mike Carona on public corruption charges, which he recalled as "dark days."

"Today is a sunny day, both in the sky and for Orange County law enforcement," Campbell said.

Hutchens, too, refused to look back and said she is focused on building on the promise of the trained and dedicated men and women of the Orange County Sheriff's Department. Describing herself again as a "change agent," Hutchens said she will take the "long view" and will be "seeking truth."

"The willingness to look at what works and ask how it can be made even better is in and of itself, change," she said. "It is only by leading the department, doing an analysis of all the things we do right, that we can have the solid foundation to identify what we do wrong and fix it."

Hutchens was sworn in by Orange County Superior Court Judge Carolyn Kirkwood. Hutchens' mother, Marilyn Mitchell, and brother, Keith Jones, a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy, were in the second row.

Appointed by the Board of Supervisors on June 10, Hutchens was sworn in last Thursday during a small, private ceremony by Supervisor John Moorlach.

Colleene Preciado, head of the county’s Probation Department, downplayed the significance of Hutchens’ gender and said she will join a host of other women in the county’s law enforcement and justice agencies.

"It's really not a gender thing to me," Preciado said. "People get here on their own merits, their own hard work."

Hutchens, 53, was chosen over Santa Ana Police Chief Paul Walters and 46 other candidates to replace Carona, who resigned in January to focus on his trial, which is set for August. She is the third woman in California to serve as sheriff, joining female officers in Fresno and Santa Clara counties.

A Dana Point resident, Hutchens worked for the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department for 27 years, working her way up through the ranks after starting as a secretary in 1976. She retired in March 2007 as a division chief.

She promised supervisors to do an exhaustive audit of the department and report back to the board within 120 days. She has already hired a consultant to study Orange County's jails and is considering hiring a consultant group made up of former members of the state corrections board.

Hutchens, who said she will run for election when her term expires in 2010, will earn $208,000 a year.

Contact the writer: (714) 285-2862 or plowe@ocregister.com