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First woman named as undersheriff for San Diego Sheriff's Department

Undersheriff Kelly Martinez
Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-03 20:44:41-05

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- She is the first female undersheriff for the San Diego County Sheriff’s Department.

New Undersheriff Kelly Martinez has dedicated her career to law enforcement. It was something she never dreamed of as a kid.

“My dad always told me I was going to be married and live on a farm and have about 12 kids,” Martinez joked.

While she loves kids and has one of her own, she ended up following in her father’s footsteps. Her dad was a San Diego police officer.

Martinez has now been in law enforcement 36 years—the entire time with the Sheriff’s Department. She spent more than two decades a deputy and was then promoted to sergeant and lieutenant. Martinez told ABC 10News she even thought about retiring a few times. Instead, she now holds the second top spot in the entire department.

“It’s incredible. I never thought this would happen in my career,” she said. Martinez started in law enforcement when it wasn’t always easy being a woman wearing a badge.

“Everything you do as a woman is looked at, maybe highlighted a little more, [and] not as forgiving in the beginning,” Martinez said. “I was really grateful to some of the strong women that came before me and they really laid the groundwork through their professionalism,” Martinez said.

She encourages other young women to explore a career in law enforcement, both sworn and non-sworn positions.

“I would encourage anyone who has a not only an adventurous spirit, but a creative spirit, who likes hard work, who likes people,” Martinez said. “I hope that we continue to recruit high quality women... not only in the sworn positions like I'm in, but in some of our other position.”

While she said there were many qualified women for the job of undersheriff, she said “it’s about time” the shoes were filled by a woman.

San Diego has a history of high-ranking women in law enforcement. Former San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman was the first woman to lead her department. Chief Roxana Kennedy is the first female police chief in Chula Vista.