Margaret Mims, the longtime Fresno County sheriff, is set to hang up her badge and retire, she announced Friday.
“(It) was not an easy decision because I love my job, I love the service and I love the people in Fresno County. But I made the decision and to answer everybody’s questions — I’m healthy, I’m happy, I have a lot of energy. Nobody asked me to retire. But after 42 years in law enforcement, it’s time and I get to have healthy years in my retirement,” Mims said at a Friday news conference at Pardini’s catering hall.
Mims also announced she is endorsing Assistant Sheriff John Zanoni in the 2022 election that will decide her successor.
Zanoni currently overseas the field services division — which includes the deputies and management on patrol, detectives and dispatchers.
Mims, 67, was first elected in 2006 and is currently in her fourth term. Her long law enforcement career saw her break many glass ceilings in Fresno County, including being the first woman in the department to rise to the roles of supervising sergeant, first lieutenant, captain, assistant sheriff, and eventually, elected sheriff.
“Sixteen years as sheriff, it’s plenty. It’s enough,” Mims said.
The 2022 election for sheriff takes place June 7. If a candidate does not receive the majority of votes cast, the top two contenders will advance to a November runoff.
Zanoni: 26 Year Veteran
Zanoni, who grew up in Fresno and is a Fresno State graduate, has worked for the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office his entire career. He was hired as a reserve deputy in 1996 and has worked his way up the ranks. He’s has served as assistant sheriff since 2018.
“I’m motivated by the opportunity to serve the residents of Fresno County,” Zanoni told GV Wire. “I’ve prepared for this, essentially, all along. I have a very good understanding of what our deputy sheriffs who respond to calls for service on patrol. I know what goes on, on patrol. I know what they go through and I’ve promoted through the ranks and I’ve held every rank for a given period of time. And so a very good at understanding of how the sheriff’s office works and where we need to go as an agency in order to provide the best service to our community.”
Zanoni is 48 and a registered Republican. He hopes to address the issue of early releases of inmates by building a new west jail annex.
“That jail is going to have three floors. We will have the opportunity to add two additional floors. If I’m elected sheriff, I would like to see the completion of those two additional floors, so we will hopefully release fewer inmates. And also we’ll be able to provide a better service and program to those inmates that are in the jail. And hopefully with that, they’ll be less likely to remain and more likely to be successful when they’re on the outside,” Zanoni said.
As to criticism over providing assistance to federal immigration authorities, Zanoni said the Sheriff’s Office is simply following the law.
“We comply with the law as a sheriff’s office. We are not anti-immigrant. We are all for immigrants and immigration and people coming here and doing the right thing. But when people commit crimes, we are anti-criminal. So when people commit crimes, we follow the protocols, we follow the law and we will release people to federal authorities as is appropriate,” Zanoni said.
Zanoni lives in northwest Fresno with his wife, Jennifer, and three school-age children.
Dyer’s Reaction to Mims’ Retirement
Mims received praise from her local law enforcement colleagues.
“It was an honor to work side-by-side with Sheriff Mims during my time as the police chief,” said Fresno Mayor Jerry Dyer. “She has served the law enforcement profession in an exemplary manner and has been a strong voice at the state and national level. Her passion to remove methamphetamine from our communities has been steadfast.”
Prior to serving as mayor, Dyer served as Fresno police chief from 2001-2019.
“I wish Sheriff Mims the very best in her future. She is deserving of some much-needed rest.”
Smittcamp: Mims Championed Public Safety, Pursuit of Justice
Fresno County District Attorney Lisa Smittcamp said it has been “a pleasure” to work alongside Sheriff Mims. “Together, we have championed public safety and sought to protect victims in our tireless pursuit of justice,” Smittcamp said.
“On behalf of the entire Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, we wish to congratulate the Sheriff on her upcoming retirement, on all she has accomplished throughout her tenure, and on the legacy, she will leave behind at the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office.”
Law Enforcement Career Started in 1980
Mims started her law enforcement career as a police officer in Kerman in 1980. She moved to the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office in 1983, where she will now retire at the end of her term in January 2023.
“It was important to me when I became sheriff to provide stability to the office. I have provided that stability and over the years we have worked our way through good times and tough times and become stronger as a result. I say ‘we’ because I did not accomplish this alone, it took working with not only Sheriff’s Office personnel, but with the vital cooperation of the Fresno County Board of Supervisors, our county administrative office, other county departments, and the public,” Mims said.
With Mims not running for re-election, the deadline for sheriff’s candidates to file for the ballot is extended to March 16.
Could Deputy Sheriff Union Chief Run?
Eric Schmidt is the president of the Fresno Deputy Sheriff’s Association, the union representing deputies.
“There are so many things that I will miss about Sheriff Mims. She was always gracious, and levelheaded — no matter the issue,” Schmidt said in an email statement.
“She has been a tireless leader who has served our community in an honorable and commendable way. She also worked hard lobbying for Fresno County (on many issues) at the state capital and Washington, DC.”
It is too early, Schmidt said, for the FSDA to consider an endorsement.
Schmidt tells GV Wire that he has received several calls about whether he might run for the job. It is something he would consider, Schmidt said, but he said he has not made a decision.
To run for sheriff, candidates must have a combination of law enforcement experience and education. Candidates must also be registered to vote in Fresno County.
Last year, state Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, proposed allowing candidates without law enforcement experience to run, but later withdrew his bill.
Mims Known for Conservative Politics
Known for her conservative politics, Mims met with then-President Donald Trump at the White House in 2018 to discuss gang problems in the county. She also met with Trump during a campaign stop in Sacramento County.
Mims has been an outspoken critic of criminal justice reform measures in California.