Alameda County Sheriff-Elect Yesenia Sanchez is 1st Latina to hold the office

Alameda County will soon have a new sheriff. 

On Wednesday, Yesenia Sanchez declared victory in the June 7 election.

She took home 53% of the vote, eliminating the need for a November runoff against longtime incumbent Greg Ahern.

Sheriff-elect Sanchez spoke to KTVU in an hour long sit-down interview about her win, what inspired her to run and how she plans to reform the department. 

"It's amazing. There's no other way for me to put it," Sanchez said about her victory.

In January, she will become the first woman and Latina to hold that office.  

"It's something that I believe will bring a level of compassion and empathy to how we provide law enforcement services," said Sanchez. "I definitely did not expect to win outright." 
The Hayward native joined the department when she was 19 years old and rose through the ranks for the past 25 years.. 

For the past two years, she's been the commander of the jails

"It definitely needed more focus and attention," she said. "That's something I will be bringing." 

Sanchez said she will increase staffing to address problems there. 

The department has dealt with lawsuits and costly settlements for the way deputies have handled mentally ill inmates and in-custody deaths.

Sanchez said  the current practice of not providing information to their loved ones which she describes as a "failure" will change. 

"There is only so much information you can share with families when you're conducting an investigation but we can provide some information to them as well as the public," said Sanchez, "We need to start treating people as people."  

The 44-year-old said her priorities will include talking to the rank and file about what changes are needed and holding town hall meetings to address the concerns of Alameda County residents. 

Sanchez said her own life experience has prepared her for this job.

"I've experienced homelessness," she said. "I've experienced working 3 jobs in my youth and worked for  what I have today."   

She pledges she will not cooperate with ICE  unless there is a federal criminal warrant. 

Sanchez said running the jails gave her the confidence and experience she felt she needed to become sheriff. 

Sanchez says the loss of her brother to cancer last year inspired her to run.

"He was fearless and that resonated with me.  And that's really what pushed me to go for it," said Sanchez.    

She will officially become the new Alameda County Sheriff after Sheriff Ahern's term ends and he retires Jan. 3, 2023.  

Sanchez said she will listen and engage the community as well as hold department members accountable. 

Amber Lee is a reporter with KTVU. Email Amber at or text/leave message at 510-599-3922. Follow her on facebook @AmberKTVU,  instagram @AmberKTVU  or twitter @AmberKTVU