After nearly 170 years, the higher-ups at the Comal County Sheriff’s Office finally realized that the best man for a job isn’t a man at all.
As of Jan. 8, Lt. Margaret Smith is the first female member of the CCSO command staff, ever. Command staff includes staff members ranked lieutenant, captain, major or chief deputy.
“I was really kind of stunned and honored and surprised all at once,” Smith said. “But I was very happy for a lot of reasons. I enjoy what I do and I like working with our operations people and our corrections officers.”
Smith is the corrections lieutenant with four corrections sergeants directly reporting to her, as well as one sergeant each who runs the nursing staff, maintenance of the building, and jail supplies.
She served as training sergeant for about five years before getting bumped up to lieutenant, effective Jan. 8 of this year.
Smith said it was never her goal to break through a glass ceiling at the CCSO, but she’s happy to be a pioneer. And since it wasn’t a major concern for her, she hadn’t really considered how long the county sheriff’s office — established in 1846 — had gone without a female command staffer.
“Recently one of my coworkers looked and said 1846, (that’s) 167 years,” Smith said. “I said I guess that’s a long time for them not to have a female.”
Capt. Dennis Koepp, Smith’s supervisor, said the sheriff’s office didn’t go out of its way to promote Smith. He said she went through the process like any other interested sergeant and proved to be the best choice for the job.
She applied for the higher ranking, took the tests and conducted her oral interview at a top-notch level, Koepp said.
“Anybody that was eligible to put it, put in,” he said. “She just happened to be a female and she just happened to be the number one candidate.”
Though she didn’t set out to be number one, Smith said she plans to help bring more females to the office’s higher ranks. She hopes to mentor as many as she can and give them a positive idea about where they can take their careers.
Growing up, she wasn’t afforded the dream of someday being involved in law enforcement or achieving her current rank. People told her it was a man’s field and she should look to do other work, said Smith, who is 62 years old and has been on the CCSO staff 14 years.
“I graduated from high school in 1968,” she said. “The number of women in law enforcement across the board was few and far between.
“I always was interested in law enforcement. (But) it never presented itself as a viable option.”
That was then. Now, another female will soon join Smith on the Sheriff’s command staff.
Sgt. Julia Prescott in the coming days will be promoted to Lt. Prescott, head of jail administration. Prescott said she took note of the absence of women in the higher ranks. But things happen for a reason and when they’re supposed to happen, she said.
Prescott said she is honored to be the second female member of the command staff.
“I think it’s been a long time coming,” she said.
“This didn’t happen because we’re females,” Prescott clarified. “There was a procedure in place and this is the way things fell.”