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Charmaine McGuffey Outlines Her Policy Plans As Hamilton County's Newly Elected Sheriff

charmaine mcguffey
Jolene Almendarez
Newly elected Sheriff Charmaine McGuffey talks about criminal justice reform and equity during a news conference Wednesday morning at the Hamilton County Justice Center.

It's a dream job for newly elected Charmaine McGuffey to take the reins at the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office. And now that she'll be leading the department, she's promising to bring big changes in the name of criminal justice reform and equity. 

"My challenges moving forward is to bring criminal justice reform in an actionable way to this county — not just talk about it, not just use phrase words — but actually show the people who supported me that we can move farther in the criminal justice system than we ever have before," McGuffey said at a news conference Wednesday morning. 

She won a victory over Republican challenger Bruce Hoffbauer Tuesday night, making her the first female and first openly LGBTQ person to hold the postion. 

She spent 33 years working at the sheriff's office, but left the department after she says she was discriminated against for her gender and sexuality. 

"I know what it feels like to be targeted. I absolutely do. And number two, I know what it feels like to be the only woman in the room, to be the only LGBTQ woman in the room — I know," she says.

During her career, she says she saw a system that didn't allow diversity among its upper ranks, something sorely needed in Hamilton County. And the people helping her shake things up will be people who want to help the department move in the direction she's leading it in.

Among some of the changes she wants to make in the department are ensuring people in jails have opportunities that will help them not get stuck in the criminal justice system; having more equitable justice in the community; and protecting people from the deadly pandemic. 

"I am going to work with all the judges and people in the prosecutor's office, all of the people in the defense attorney's office, so that we can figure out who can be released from this jail to save their lives, frankly, from something like COVID. And secondly, I am going to mandate that we wear masks inside this facility," she said, gesturing to the jail and courthouse. 

McGuffey wanted to be a police officer since she was a little girl and was told she'd never get the chance because she's a woman. She says she hopes that winning the election inspires other little girls to stand strong in the face of adversity. 

"I want to say to every little girl out there, 'When you hear the word 'no,' you know that means go  — go and get your dream." 

-Additional reporting by WVXU staff.

Jolene Almendarez is the granddaughter of Mexican immigrants who came to San Antonio in the 1960s. She was raised in a military family and has always called the city home. She studied journalism at San Antonio College and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Public Communications from the University of Alaska Anchorage. She's been a reporter in San Antonio and Castroville, Texas, and in Syracuse and Ithaca, New York.