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Knowles to run for Ozaukee County Sheriff

Updated: Dec 23, 2021

Featured on GM Today.

PORT WASHINGTON - As a teen and young adult, it took Christy Knowles some searching to find a career that she was passionate about. But with the prodding of her mother, she applied for a job with the Ozaukee County Sheriff’s Office and found the career and purpose she’d been seeking.

Now, hundreds of cases, arrests and special bonds with sensitive victims later, Knowles has announced she is running for the top job as sheriff.

Currently the Ozaukee County undersheriff, Knowles has the blessing of current Sheriff James Johnson, who said he will retire when his term is up in January 2023.

“I wholeheartedly endorse and support Undersheriff Christy Knowles in her run for sheriff,” Johnson said. “She is a competent, proven leader that will continue to move the county forward. She cares about our county and the law enforcement services that are delivered to our citizens.”

Knowles said she decided to run for sheriff because she loves and supports the agency and she wants to continue the work that Johnson has done.

“I have the leadership skills, integrity, compassion, community involvement that the Sheriff’s Office is known for and that the community deserves,” she said. “I’m fair and treat everyone with respect. These are two important qualities to have for the position of sheriff.” - Christy Knowles

Knowles, who has worked with Johnson as she advanced through the department, said he has mentored her and helped prepare her for the position. Knowles’ former father-in-law, James Knowles, was the deputy chief of the Sheriff’s Office, and she said also learned a lot from him.

Christy Knowles joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1999 as a deputy sheriff assigned to the jail division. She was promoted to patrol deputy in 2001, during which time she worked with the anti-drug task force and also served as a field training officer. She was also an instructor in defense and arrest tactics.

She was next promoted to detective, where she was assigned to general investigations with an emphasis in sensitive crimes. In 2012, she became a lieutenant in the patrol division, then captain of operations and in 2019, undersheriff.

Knowles attended Marquette University and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and is a graduate of the Northwestern University-Police Staff and Command College and the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va. Knowles is a certified Defense and Arrest Tactics instructor and teaches at the Waukesha County Technical College law enforcement recruit academy.

Knowles has been involved with many of the department’s community outreach programs, including the Protect and Serve Lunch, Coffee with a Cop, Project Lifesaver, the Countywide Critical Incident Debrief Team and the Officer Wellness program, which includes its Peer Support Team.

She is particularly committed to the issue of mental health and addiction, and is directly involved as the coordinator of the Crisis Intervention Team of Ozaukee County committee and a participating member of the Coordinated Services Team of Ozaukee Family Services.

“Mental health and addiction is an issue throughout the community which affects law enforcement responses to crises. This has been a big accomplishment for law enforcement agencies across the county and for myself. I’m proud of what I’ve done with this program and of the partners I work with,” she said. “Our community is not immune to this crisis. We see it every day we put on our uniforms.”

She also has a particular interest in helping sensitive crime victims, who are often either very young or very old.

“I had victims as young as infants and as old as my grandma,” Knowles said. “One case that sticks out to me was my first child sexual assault case as a new detective. The victim was 7 years old and she inspired me with her grace and composure. She is 21 years old now. We had kept in contact every Christmas after I first met her. The victims I have worked with really made an impact on my life.”

And while a victory in the November 2022 election would make Knowles the first female sheriff in the county, it wouldn’t be about her, but for other women in the field, she said.

“It would be a huge accomplishment and I hope it would encourage women to pursue a career in law enforcement,” Knowles said. “I know our people and I know my abilities. I have the confidence to lead this agency regardless of being a female.”

Johnson started with the Sheriff’s Office in 1991 and has moved up through the ranks as sergeant of the jail division, a detective, lieutenant, captain and undersheriff. He was elected sheriff in 2014.

“I’ve been in public service all of my adult life, I had served active in the Marine Corps for eight years, then the Reserves before starting in law enforcement,” Johnson said. “I have enjoyed my chosen career, I’ve enjoyed working with our community partners, now it’s time to retire and enjoy the next chapter.”

Johnson said he has no definite plans for his next step, though he also holds a position as an adjunct professor at Concordia University Wisconsin.



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