There’s a new sheriff in town, and she’s Black.
Zena Stephens, a Democrat, recently won a close election to become the first African-American woman elected sheriff in the entire state of Texas, reports KTXS, an ABC News affiliate.
Stephens serves currently as police chief at Prairie View A&M University and previously as chief deputy in the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff-elect said her victory is significant because she had never seen a sheriff like her while growing up, the Houston Chronicle reported.
She added: “And so the idea, not just for girls but for any minority, that you can obtain these jobs at this level, I think that’s important. And it’s important for these jobs in law enforcement and any job to reflect the community they serve.”
The Chronicle reported that Stephens won 51.4 percent of the vote in Jefferson County, beating her Republican rival Ray Beck by 2,431 votes.
Stephens won despite a heavy Republican turnout that sided with Donald Trump in the presidential race.
NBC-DFW reported that some residents of the Houston-area county crossed party lines and voted for Stephens, many saying she was the best candidate to replace retiring Jefferson County Sheriff Mitch Woods, who held the post for two decades.
There was, however, racist opposition to Stephens. A gunman opened fire at Stephens’ campaign headquarters and shouted a racial slur the night before her March primary. Adam Carver, the accused shooter, was arrested and charged with deadly conduct for discharging a firearm.
Looking ahead, the sheriff-elect said she will bring “passion” to the job and focus on moving the community forward, according to KTXS.
“You know I love this community. I grew up here,” she added. “I have experience both in a municipal police setting and the sheriff’s department, but I’m also still a police officer today.”
In January, Stephens will lead a department of 400 employees with a $13.1 million budget, as well as a jail system that operates on a $27.6 million budget.