Cristie Kahler has been named the chief spokesperson of the Harford County Sheriff's Office effective July 1, when the current spokesman Edward Hopkins assumes his new role as chief deputy.
Kahler, 36, has been working with Hopkins for 16 months and says she's ready to step into the new position.
"I'm very honored to have been considered for this opportunity. I've really enjoyed the last year and four months of working in a backup position," Kahler said Thursday. "This has been one of the best experiences of my life. People in the community are wonderful, people in the agency are wonderful and I've really learned a lot. I'm very excited to take on this challenge, to continue building on relationships I've already started."
Hopkins, a former deputy who retired as a lieutenant and then rejoined the agency as its public information officer in 2012, was appointed chief deputy last week by Sheriff Jesse Bane to replace Col. Greg Carlevaro, who is retiring.
In her new position, Kahler's salary will be $70,304 a year, up from her current $47,694 a year.
Kahler said she sees the public information officer position as a cross between working to promote all the great things the sheriff's office and its deputies do every day and providing the public safety message to the community.
"It's really a very important role to be able to communicate to the community to let them know what's happening in the world around them," she said.
That she doesn't have a police background, like Hopkins did, shouldn't matter in this position, she said.
"I don't need a police background, to do the investigation, to do the patrol check. I need to understand their job and best communicate that to the community," she said, adding the deputies need to trust her and she needs to trust them.
Kahler worked for the local nonprofit SARC, which assists and advocates for victims of domestic violence, sexual violence and stalking, for 11 years doing public relations, marketing and development.
She got married and started her family while working at SARC, but eventually decided her priority needed to be her education. In 2012, she earned her degree in communications with a minor in marketing from University of Maryland University College.
"This is exciting for me to be able to take these steps forward. I have opportunities open to me new that probably wouldn't have presented themselves," she said.
Kahler's roots are in Harford County, too. She grew up in Fallston, graduating from Fallston High School in 1995.
And the sheriff's office is part of her family: Her husband, Sgt. Sean Kahler, a corrections officer at the Harford County Detention Center in charge of transporting prisoners, has been with the sheriff's office since 1998. They have two children, Jacob, 14, and Lucy, 8, and live in Fallston.
"My husband working for the sheriff's office, I look to them as my extended family, as does anyone with a family member who works in this agency," Kahler said. "On top of that, I'm a community member from Harford County. To have the opportunity to serve an agency so close to me is so important on so many levels. It's something I'm very honored to be able to do."
Kahler said her family is very supportive of her taking on a new role, which she says will require her to find a balance between being an effective parent, her top priority, and getting her job done.
Her husband is 100 percent behind her, she said, and her mother lives in the same neighborhood if she ever needs help.
"Everybody doesn't have that luxury. I couldn't do it without my family support. I'm very grateful to them they're on this journey with me and I'm able to take this next step in my career because of the support they're wiling to give," she said.