She’s a trailblazer who made history in Fresno County.
There have been 25 sheriffs serving the county since 1856, and Sheriff Margaret Mims is the only woman on the list.
But her rise to the top didn’t come without its challenges.
While serving the community, Mims has broken barriers her entire career. She is the first female sheriff in the department’s history, serving a community she grew up in.
“I grew up in the small town of San Joaquin on the west side of Fresno County,” Mims remembers.
She was on a path to become a teacher, but that all changed one night in 1979. “I got a telephone call one night from my dad who was going to a retirement dinner. He said, ‘Your mom has a headache, I don’t want to go by myself, would you go with me?’ And I said ‘Sure dad.'”
At that party, Mims met the new Kerman Police Chief who wanted to add women to the force. “I basically told him, if I know of anyone interested I’ll let you know.”
She applied, and a few months later, became the first female officer in the city of Kerman. But, it came with challenges.
She explains, “There were a lot of tests, people wanted to test my abilities.”
Mims kept working and in 1983, she became a sheriff’s deputy in Fresno County. There she rose through the ranks, becoming the first female K-9 handler, lieutenant and captain, just to name a few ranks.
“I felt for many years that I had to prove myself, I felt I had to make more arrests, I had to make more reports, had to clear more cases. I had an epiphany one time and I thought if somebody thinks I cant do this job because I’m a woman, thats not my burden to carry. Thats their problem,” she says.
In 2006, Mims became the first female sheriff in Fresno County. Two years later she faced a new challenge, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. She beat it and used her voice to advocate for early detection.
“I’ve been blessed and I feel a responsibility to give back,” she explains.
During her time as sheriff, several laws impacting law enforcement have changed and Mims has taken a tough stance. “Laws that are passed, things that happen, that don’t help me keep people safe, I will be very vocal.”
Her opinion was sought after by President Donald Trump. She sat across from him last year in Washington D.C., discussing the state’s sanctuary state law.
“We’ll take care of it, Margaret,” the president remarked to Mims.
Sheriff Mims is one of only 40 female sheriffs in the country. She also serves the community, working with several organizations. She has broken the glass ceiling in valley law enforcement, a job she didn’t plan to have.
“Be prepared to be flexible, what you think you may want to be, may not be what you’re meant to be,” she advises the youth of the valley.
Her career is an example of that. Other messages to young women she hopes to impart is to work hard to accomplish your goals.
“You have to work very hard for what you want, nobody’s going to hand it to you because you’re a woman,” she says.