Hennepin County voters overwhelmingly selected Dawanna Witt as the next sheriff, becoming the first Black person and first woman to lead the department in its 170-year history.
"I'm excited; it's been a long road," Witt said Tuesday night. "The voters of Hennepin County have said what type of leader they want. And I have every intention of being the sheriff who lives up to those expectations."
Witt, a 48-year-old major with the Sheriff's Office, will oversee the largest jail in Minnesota and help the county's 45 cities investigate crime.
With all of Hennepin County's 397 precincts reporting, Witt held a commanding, nearly 2-1 lead over challenger Joseph Banks.
"I thought I gave it a good shot and will still be making sure I have a voice at the table in the community," Banks said Tuesday night. "I've known Witt for a long time and I believe she will be a good leader at the helm."
One-term Sheriff David Hutchinson remains on medical leave, so the new sheriff will take over an office that has been without an elected leader for nearly a year.
Her top priority will be thwarting a violent crime surge in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs, she said. Nobody thrives in a community in which they don't feel safe, she said.
Witt will take over an agency with a $130 million budget and have an opportunity to remake the office after outgoing Hutchinson crashed a county-owned SUV while driving drunk in December. He pleaded guilty to drunken driving soon after and went on medical leave in May.
In her current position, Witt oversees the two largest divisions in the Sheriff's Office, court security and adult detention. She is on a state advisory panel on child protection and law enforcement education reform.
Banks, a former acting chief of the Lower Sioux Indian Community and police chief in Morton, Minn., lost against Rich Stanek in a previous run for sheriff.
Witt will take over the Sheriff's Office in January.