Class of 2020 Endorsed Candidate: Charmaine McGuffey
Charmaine McGuffey is no stranger to the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office. Charmine was an employee at the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office for 33 years. She rose through the ranks serving as a Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, and Major. Charmaine is the highest-ranking woman in the history of the Sheriff’s office. As Major, Charmaine brought the ranking of the Hamilton county jail from the worst in the state, to the best. Charmaine believes strongly in collaborating with the community to reform the justice system. She has started a number of reform initiatives with community partners including a Women’s Heroin Recovery Program and a book club for the female general population. Once elected, Charmaine will bring accountability, transparency, community engagement, and justice reform into the Sheriff’s office.
Meet the Candidate
1) In your interview with the Endorsement Committee, you shared a personal life experience that led you to the decision to run for office. Can you tell our members a little bit about your journey to filing as a candidate?
At the age of fourteen, I decided I wanted to become a police officer. The only issue that I faced at the time was that women could not, by law, be police officers on patrol. Women could only be assigned to child services division or work in support roles. I remember being disappointed when I learned this but I also made up my mind that I would pursue my goal, regardless of the barriers. Ultimately, I did become an officer. I earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and joined the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office in 1983. I was in the first wave of women allowed to work patrol duties. There were many challenges to working with a majority of men in a profession that values comradery and strength. I often felt pressed to achieve beyond the mark of excellence. As a woman, there was a double edge to such achievements because if you outperformed your male counterparts, you were likely to be ostracized for it. In a profession that values machoism and comradery, there is a likelihood that a negative label could follow you. In my 33 years of service, I achieved rank, eventually becoming the Major of Jail and Court Services. After almost 5 years as the Major, I found myself at a crossroads that I never anticipated. I was pressured to go along with practices that I did not agree with. Those practices included a lack of accountability when it came to the use of force and the treatment of women officers and prisoners. I made a decision to speak out against those practices because I could not stay silent. There were those in the Sheriff’s organization who pushed to silence me, and as a result, I was fired. I subsequently filed a federal lawsuit based on my obligation as a public servant to report civil rights violations, and for my disparate treatment as a woman. As I know you do, I believe that not to act is to act. After a years’ time, I was encouraged by supporters to run for Sheriff. Given the current state of our justice system, there is no time like the present to bring about lasting justice reform. That reform must begin from the inside out. Only by initiating change from the top of an organization can you change the culture and practices. As the Sheriff of Hamilton County, I will lead with transparency and accountability that will make the Sheriff’s office the best in the state of Ohio.
2) Many of you cited a family member whose strength was an inspiration to you. Tell our members about a friend or family member who inspired you to become a leader.
My mother was a single parent to three girls in 1960. At an early age, we became estranged from our father. My mother was left as the sole supporter of our family. As a single mother in 1960, mom worked long hours and often we were tasked with keeping up with our responsibilities without much adult supervision. However, while we were faced with the challenges of growing up in an at-risk neighborhood and financially very poor, we were spiritually and emotionally wealthy. I frequently watched my mom achieve the impossible, purchasing our house, providing food and clothing for us. My mom taught me many things that have served me well in my life. I learned that overcoming the impossible is possible, I learned the value of integrity and hard work, and I learned the value of perseverance.
3) Some of you are military veterans, some businesspeople, some professionals, some homemakers. How did one of these jobs shape who you are as a person and a leader?
Working in uniform for the Hamilton County Sheriff’s office put me on the front lines of social interaction with a diversity of people in our society, many of them experiencing hardships. I saw first-hand the cruelty that people can inflict on each other. I experienced the challenges of working with people who suffer from mental health issues and felt the helplessness of failing to encourage addicts to change their lives. I also encountered people who had become hopeless and lost their way. Oftentimes these people come to the attention of law enforcement and unfortunately, their initial encounter can be very difficult.
4) The Matriots PAC has a Big Hairy Audacious Goal to see 50% of all elected offices in Ohio held by women by 2028. What is your vision for Ohio in 2028?
In 2028, women will have moved the mark in every city and county in Ohio. It will be through their strength of leadership that communities will prioritize excellence in public education, early childhood development, full healthcare rights for women, and equity in pay and employment that value women who contribute and strengthen the social fabric of our society. By the year 2028, girls will declare their strength and will challenge the status quo that holds them back whenever they encounter it.
5) Tip O’Neill famously said that “all politics is local.” What are the top-two issues your community or our state face today?
From my vantage point, the top two issues in our communities are the prevalence of gun violence and the need for justice reform. I am a law and order person who values safety in our community. I believe in the Second Amendment and also believe that sensible gun legislation has to happen. I support the goals of Moms Demand Action and others who promote legislation to do that.
I am running for Sheriff because I have seen justice and I have seen injustice. The time for justice reform is here and it’s now. We have to move out of the 1950’s model of hard incarceration and toward justice reform that focuses on rehabilitative practices that assist formerly incarcerated persons to re-enter the community with the resources and skills they need to be successful. We need to move toward practices of ‘no cash bail’ for low-level crimes because our jails are filled with people who are in jail while awaiting a hearing or trial simply because they are poor and cannot afford bail.
6) Now for fun: Tell us something personal about yourself. It can be a hobby, your favorite food, a funny pet story, something we might not know about you that you would like to share with our members.
I love the out of doors. At eight years old, my uncle Eddie taught me to fish and it has become a lifelong passion. Through the course of my life, I have passed the love of fishing on to many other children. I loved playing all sports and I swam for the University of Cincinnati. I also played major league women’s softball for most of my adult life. I live in downtown Cincinnati with my wife Christine and we enjoy biking, camping, fishing, and hiking.