Not just about being first

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When Fairfax County’s new sheriff isn’t busy overseeing a 603-person department and its $63 million budget, she probably is outside picking up litter or at home making jewelry that charities can sell.

Stacey Kincaid became both the first female and the first Jewish sheriff here following her election last November. Her term runs through December 2015. There are only four female sheriffs in Virginia, including one in nearby Arlington.


The 49-year-old Kincaid has been working at the sheriff’s department her entire career, beginning with an internship while attending Frostburg State University. She became a full-time employee in 1987.

During an interview in her office overlooking the county’s numerous law enforcement buildings, Kincaid spoke glowingly of her job that she willingly spends seven days a week doing. Her department manages the county jail, which houses 1,248 inmates. It also oversees courthouse security, including the 4,000 people who visit each day.

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During her training at the police academy in 1988, her mother challenged her. “She was the first person who told me I could be the first woman sheriff in Fairfax County,” Kincaid recalled, adding, “I just kept thinking about it.”

However, “It wasn’t just about being the first. Here was an opportunity to make things different,” she said.


Although proud to be the first woman in her job since the department was
created in 1742, she says it’s not all about her. She hopes that her breaking the glass ceiling will help other women see her as a role model to up their game and strive for higher goals.

Still she likes to quote Leigh Standley, owner of Curly Girl Design, who said, “I am fairly certain that given a cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world.”

In the half year she has led the department, Kincaid already has made changes. She ended the midnight release of prisoners, changing the time to 8 a.m. so that those who had no place to go weren’t wandering the streets and those who needed support could go to agencies that were open during the day. Also, she noted, public transportation is not readily available in the middle of the night.

“I never understood why we released people in the middle of the night,” she said.

She is striving to make her department more visible to Fairfax County’s 1.1
million people. It’s common to see police and firefighters at work, but people don’t really know what employees in her department do, Kincaid said. Therefore, she has made visibility a high priority, speaking and volunteering, along with other members of her staff, at various organizations throughout the county.

Kincaid is concentrating on helping the roughly 30 percent of those incarcerated who have mental health issues. She believes it is vital to match them up with case managers and let them know where they can seek help following their release.

“It’s unfortunate that we’ve become the place” to house those with mental health issues, she said.

Kincaid traces her strong desire to help others to her Jewish roots as well as her experiences as a child being bused for racial equality. The students she met at her new school experienced domestic violence and other problems that opened her eyes.
Since then, Kincaid has had “the need to always help the underdog. The need to always treat people with respect and dignity.”

Kincaid said she was raised in a secular home with strong values. Her parents are Jewish, and she knows of Holocaust survivors in her family. Kincaid is married to husband Greg, who has been with the state police for 30 years. She has two adult step-children.

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