Law enforcement General Election
Kelly Anne Martinez, downtown on Election Night. Photo by Chris Stone

Kelly A. Martinez, undersheriff sheriff for nearly a year, officially took office as San Diego County’s new Sheriff at noon Monday.

On Dec. 16, the San Diego native took the formal oath of office as the county’s 31st sheriff after winning the general election. A ceremonial swearing-in event, during which Martinez will take her oath before the public, will take place Jan. 9.

“I am honored to have been elected as the next sheriff of San Diego County,” Martinez said. “There is no greater responsibility than to be entrusted with the safety of the public. I am committed to fulfilling that obligation and I am grateful for the opportunity. I will continue to carry out my promise to improve San Diego jails, hire and retain staff and keep our communities safe.”

Martinez has been with the Sheriff’s department since 1985, beginning her career as a deputy working in county jails. Her first patrol assignment was in Fallbrook, where she was an investigator and worked several assignments, including in drug and gang enforcement and as part of the Criminal Intelligence Detail.

As a sergeant, Martinez supervised a patrol team in San Marcos before being selected to supervise investigators in the Criminal Intelligence Detail. Her next assignment involved investigating employee misconduct in the Sheriff’s Internal Affairs Unit before being promoted to lieutenant.

As lieutenant she also oversaw the Sheriff’s Department’s participation in the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Narcotics Task Force.

Martinez has worked in various cities and communities, including Encinitas, Del Mar, Solana Beach, Rancho Santa Fe and Valley Center.

As a captain, Martinez served in unincorporated Alpine and the rural areas of San Diego County. She was promoted to commander and led the Sheriff’s Investigation Units.

Martinez’ appointment to Assistant Sheriff put her in charge of the Law Enforcement Services Bureau, which encompasses patrol operations, investigative units, regional crime laboratory, communications center and emergency services.

In 2021, Martinez was appointed as the undersheriff. In that capacity, she was oversaw day-to-day department operations.

Sheriff Bill Gore retired in February, a year before his term had been set to end, leaving Martinez, who already had declared for the sheriff’s race, to serve as acting sheriff until interim Sheriff Anthony Ray was appointed to finish Gore’s term.

As sheriff, Martinez will lead a department responsible for providing law enforcement services over 4,200 square miles of unincorporated San Diego County and nine contract cities. The department also serves in seven jails while providing security for county courthouses.

The Sheriff’s Department has a $1.65 billion budget and more than 4,700 employees. Rich Williams holds the undersheriff post.

– City News Service