King County Sheriff Mitzi Johanknecht was sworn into office Tuesday, less than two months after defeating former Sheriff John Urquhart in a political upset.
Johanknecht took the oath of office at the King County Courthouse at 11 a.m, surrounded by family, friends and colleagues.
"I am honored and humbled by this acknowledgement and vote into office and I will work hard for you," Sheriff Johanknecht said following the ceremony.
A 33-year veteran of the sheriff's office, Johanknecht served as a major commanding the southwest precinct. She was also the first woman to command the department's SWAT team.
She now becomes King County's second ever female sheriff, following Sue Rahr who served from 2004 to 2012.
Sheriff Johanknecht says one of her top priorities will be increasing community engagement. She plans on holding listening tours across the county and looking into community advisory councils.
She's also proposed additional training on crisis intervention and de-escalation. The sheriff's office will receive a new, less lethal tool for deputies, beanbag shotguns, in coming weeks, according to Sheriff Johanknecht.
Within the department, the new sheriff will have to continue to heal internal divisions after a contentious election cycle that pitted the former sheriff against one of his majors.
"I think morale is on an upswing," said Sheriff Johanknecht. "I look forward maintaining that and working with everyone in the department to help them understand what our mission is and get our focus back to public safety and the community outreach that we need to do."
Sheriff Johanknecht calls her leadership style unique from her predecessors and has already named a new number two, promoting fellow sheriff's office veteran Scott Somers to chief deputy.
"I'm surrounding myself from other leaders and the command team who think differently than I do and have different strengths than I do, so we're holistically looking at things from a bunch of different angles to make the best decision," said Johanknecht.
Chief Deputy Somers says he's worked closely with Johanknecht over the decades, also serving in special operations together.
"Our sense is that the department is very excited for the change and looking forward to improving how we deliver services to the community and earn community trust and support," said Somers.
"We also believe how you treat our people is how they will treat the community, so that's the tenor and tone of leadership that you'll see in the sheriff's office now," Somers continued.
Former Sheriff Urquhart did not attend the ceremony. During the campaign, Urquhart was accused of sexually assaulting a former deputy in 2014. The Snohomish County Prosecutor's Office declined to file charges against Urquhart, citing the statute of limitations for 4th-degree assault as a factor.