A female captain was promoted Friday to assistant sheriff at the Orange County Sheriff's Department, making her the highest-ranking woman in the force's 114-year history.
A 19-year department veteran, Jo Ann Galisky, 42, of Orange, is replacing Assistant Sheriff John Fuller, who is retiring after 28 years.
"I'm still in shock," Galisky said shortly after Sheriff Michael S. Carona announced her promotion. "This is incredibly humbling. It's not even something you even dream of."
As one of the department's five assistant sheriffs, Galisky will oversee investigations, communications, court operations, forensic science services and the coroner's office. Assistant sheriffs are the department's top administrators, reporting directly to the sheriff.
"My first priority is to get to know all the people who work for me," Galisky said. "They have a lot to teach me, and I have a lot to learn."
Galisky downplayed her place in Orange County history.
"I understand that I'm making history, but I always focused on being the best patrolman, the best sergeant, the best lieutenant," Galisky said. "I don't think about this in terms of gender specific. I just want to make good decisions for the right reasons."
Department officials said Galisky's promotion to assistant sheriff ruffled some feathers because she was selected over nine other captains, most of whom have held that rank longer than she.
Carona said he promoted Galisky based on her range of experience.
"When I make a decision to promote someone, I look for skill sets," he said. "For the job I needed her to do, Jo Ann had the skill set I was looking for. ... I felt she was the best candidate."
Carona said the promotion had nothing to do with gender.
"She's forward-thinking, an individual who sees the big picture and shares the vision of being the best in America," Carona said. "In a relatively short period of time, she has tackled major projects for me."
Carona said the delay in naming a woman to a top post stemmed from the rarity of openings -- this is the first such job to come open in four years -- and because the department is still dominated by men. Last year, Galisky became one of three female captains.
The department has sought to recruit more women by visiting colleges, health clubs and fitness centers and by providing agility practices for female candidates for the police academy. As of January, about 230 of the department's 1,600-member force were women.