“How did a girl from Caruthers end up in the West Wing of the White House?” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims questioned out loud after being asked about a recent encounter she had with President Donald Trump.
Mims was the guest speaker at the Nov. 5 meeting of the Sanger Woman’s Club and spoke to a large gathering about her role as the Fresno County Sheriff.
Mims told the story of how she got into the profession, recalling how she once worked and as a school librarian, even cafeteria worker. Thinking she would eventually go into teaching, sitting in on second grade class quickly made her realize that perhaps the education field was not for her.
Then, in 1979, a chance encounter she had while attending a retirement party with her dad changed the course of her life. It was a retirement party for the Chief of Police in Kerman. While speaking to the incoming chief, she heard the words that changed her life forever.
“He told me that his goal was to hire the first female police officer for the city of Kerman,” Mims recalled. “I told him that if I knew anyone who was interested I’d let him know.”
She chewed on the idea for a while and then got back to the chief. She applied for the job and was hired in January of 1980.
Mims worked her way through the ranks and opportunities continued to present themselves, culminating with her running for Fresno County Sheriff in 2006. She was elected in November of that year, becoming the first female sheriff in Fresno County history.
In 2014 her role with the county expanded three-fold, as two other elected positions were incorporated into one. Mims is now the Fresno County Sheriff, the Fresno County Coroner and the Fresno County Public Administrator.
“It takes a lot of energy to be your sheriff,” said Mims. “But I’m very proud to be your sheriff.”
One of the projects on the horizon Mims spoke of is perhaps one of the biggest projects in the county – the building of a new Fresno County Jail.
Mims said the current county jail was built in 1941 and has about 3,000 inmates on a daily basis. Managing that many inmates, Mims said, can be a huge undertaking.
“I like to call it the biggest bed and breakfast in the San Joaquin Valley,” Mims joked.
But with the county able to secure $80 million in state funding, a new county jail is currently in the making. The new building, at a cost of about $110 million, is scheduled to open in November of 2020.
She said it takes about 130 people to operate the current county jail and the sheriff’s office employs about 1,300 people, with an operating budget of approximately $225 million.
Another program she said she is excited about is one that ties directly to her first profession in education. The Sheriff’s Reading Pose is something she helped start in 2012. Herself and avid reader, Mims said she was surprised to find out that 60 percent of the nation’s imprisoned are illiterate.
The Sheriff’s Reading Pose program provides new donated books to deputies who in turn distribute them to children while out on assignment. To date, Mims said the sheriff’s office has distributed thousands of books, each with a Fresno County Library card application, crime prevention information and a sticker badge.
As for how a girl from Caruthers made it to the West Wing of the White House, Mims responded by saying, “This is America. This is the land of opportunity. I’ve been blessed with opportunities and I ran with them.”