Oklahoma sheriff says qualifications matter for job, not gender

Margarett Parman is the new sheriff, but she's not new to the Blaine County Sheriff's Department. Parman's office is in Watonga, the county seat, about 80 miles northwest of Oklahoma City.
by Bryan Painter Modified: January 13, 2013 at 6:53 pm •  Published: January 14, 2013

Margarett Parman's hands were on the wheel of the white Ford pickup. Her eyes were on the road as she drove south on U.S. 281 toward Geary, emergency lights on and sirens blaring. Her mind was on the safety of all involved and what she should do next.

Parman, 70, was sworn in as the Blaine County sheriff on the morning of Jan. 2. Slightly more than 24 hours later, here she was responding to a possible hostage situation close to the community of Geary. With the exception of four years, she's worked for the Blaine County Sheriff's Department in some capacity since 1977. But in November, she was elected sheriff.

This wasn't exactly easing into the role. However, as she drove, she never doubted the decision to have run for sheriff in 2012.

“Your heart beats a little faster going down there, I will say that, but did I think, ‘Why did I do this?' she said. “No, it didn't enter my mind. First of all, I prayed for the protection of the officers' safety in getting there and at the scene. I was also thinking, ‘What do I need to do next? Do we need call the SWAT team?'”

As it turned out, there was no hostage situation. Parman said the reporting party, who called from another city, and the individual at the scene who was possibly being held hostage, likely were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Parman said they worked to get help for the individuals.

The sheriff's heartbeat soon returned to a normal pace.

But Parman, who in recent years served as an undersheriff for now-retired Sheriff Rick Ainsworth, knew there would be days like that.

She knows from experience that any situation could come up at any time of the day or night.

“This is a 24/7 job,” she said. “I knew that.”

Those entering the front door of her office building, on the east side of the Blaine County Courthouse, will see photos of some former sheriffs, including A.S. Bridgford in the early 1900s.

While Parman is not the first female sheriff in the state, she is currently the only woman serving in that role, according to the Oklahoma Sheriffs' Association. That's one of the few things not on her mind, she said.

“Gender has nothing to do with it. Qualifications are what mattered,” she said. “I'm a public servant.”

And Parman's serving a public that in many cases she knows either casually or rather well.

“She knows everybody in the county, and everybody knows her,” Ainsworth said. “She's a wealth of information and was truly a big help to me as an undersheriff in dealing with our normal day-to-day stuff and not-so-much day-to-day stuff.

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by Bryan Painter
Assistant Local Editor
Bryan Painter, assistant local editor, has 31 years’ experience in journalism, including 22 years with the state's largest newspaper, The Oklahoman. In that time he has covered such events as the April 19, 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah...
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