DOUGLAS COUNTY, Colo. — There’s a new sheriff in town.
And his second-in command is a woman.
Holly Nicholson-Kluth is Douglas County’s first female undersheriff in department history.
The wife and mom is just settling into the new job that was 25 years in the making.
“I am humbled and honored,” says Nicholson-Kluth about her promotion.
The nameplate outside her office is still blank.
“Hi. You have reached Undersheriff Holly Nicholson-Kluth,” as she records a new message.
And she just updated her title on voicemail.
“Undersheriff just doesn’t come naturally to me. Just call me Holly,” she says.
It’s been just one day since the 53-year-old was sworn in as the 33rd undersheriff in Douglas County.
But she’s the first woman ever in the department’s 153-year history.
She says she was never treated any differently.
“I never felt like being a woman held me back. I felt like I had all the opportunities I could possibly have,” she says.
She started as a patrol officer 25 years ago—the only woman—and worked her way up the ranks to undersheriff.
There have been 32 undersheriffs before Nicholson-Kluth–all of them men. But what has long been a man’s world is quickly changing. There are now 40 female Douglas County deputies–about 14-percent of the force.
But the man who hired her says gender had nothing to do with it.
“The responsibility of sheriff is to surround him or herself with the very best people you can to help you make decisions. And she rose to the top. We didn’t really think about her gender or anything else. We just got lucky there,” says new sheriff Tony Spurlock, who’s been with the department 33 years.
A peek around her office, you see her in pictures—the only woman amongst men.
But the most important man is her husband, also an officer with Littleton Police.
And she says she wouldn’t be here without years of sacrifice from her family. She has two children, ages 18 and 21.
“When asked, they say they wouldn’t have had it any other way,” she says.
Nicholson-Kluth says she has not ruled out the only remaining top job as sheriff. But she says only the future knows.