My OC: At Home with Sheriff Sandra Hutchens in Dana Point
Sandra Hutchens had no plan after graduating from high school in Long Beach. She worked as a pharmacy technician and scooped ice cream cones while taking community college classes. Then came a secretarial job at the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Office, where she typed up arrest reports and investigative documents. “I said, ‘This is kind of interesting,’ ” she recalls.
Later, a colleague suggested she apply for an open deputy position. So she did – and got the job.
“That’s followed me throughout my life,” says Hutchens, 61. “I think I almost have to be asked. That’s something that happens with a lot of women. We think we have to be 100 percent prepared for the next step. When somebody asks, then you start thinking, ‘Well, maybe I could do that.’ ”
After a 30-year career in Los Angeles, including a stint running one of the jails, Hutchens retired to Dana Point and was ready to start writing a novel. But she got another suggestion, this time from her husband, Larry, who had been reading about the search for a new sheriff following the resignation of Mike Carona amid federal corruption charges.
Why don’t you throw your name in the hat, he asked. That’s when Hutchens thought: “Well, what do I have to lose?”
Eight years later, Hutchens wakes up every morning and faces a closet of five uniforms – and classic separates for days she can go uniform-free. She has now been re-elected twice as Orange County sheriff, the first woman to hold the job. She’s had her share of controversies – including this year’s high-profile jailbreak – but she knew she didn’t sign up for an easy job. “I don’t think I would’ve taken the job if it was just, ‘Oh, everything is running smoothly,’” she says. “It’s a challenge.”
Hutchens and her husband live with Tucker, an arthritic goldendoodle who calls the shots on weekend plans. Eventually, she says, she’ll get back to that novel.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Dana Point
WHY I LOVE IT: It kind of reminds me of what Huntington Beach used to be: a laid-back beach city without too much traffic. There aren’t a lot of big-box stores. It’s a great walking city. We walk to the harbor, all around town.
SANCTUARY: My kitchen. I like to cook when I’m stressed. I try new recipes, everything from something in the tagine to pastas. I don’t do a lot of baking, though my husband would like that because he has a sweet tooth. Cooking just gets my mind
ON MY NIGHTSTAND: I’ve always got about six books on my nightstand. I just got a book I haven’t started called “Speak Like Churchill, Stand Like Lincoln”; it’s a history of famous speakers. I’m reading “Morningside Heights,” a novel about a neighborhood in New York and how it’s changing. I get a lot of my reading ideas from a book podcast called “What Should I Read Next?”
BOOKS I DIDN’T LIKE: I love Stephen King but I hated “Misery.” Well, I hated it but I couldn’t stop reading it.
FAVORITE PLACE TO SHOP THAT’S NOT A CHAIN: Because I’m 61, I feel like the stores are geared for younger women. I shop with Doncaster, a collection of high-end women’s clothes. It’s sold through stylists who show the line at their houses. I’ve been going to the same woman in Fullerton for more than 25 years. You pick out what you like, and they ship the clothes to you.
FAVORITE RESTAURANT: We go to Jimmy’s Famous American Tavern in the harbor. We like Stella’s in Monarch Beach. We love Fleming’s and Mastro’s in Newport Beach. But we usually eat at home.
CHALLENGES AS A YOUNG FEMALE COP: They put me in a car by myself, but there was a two-person car that another woman and I wanted to work together. They said, “No, two women can’t work together.” I said, “Are they are afraid we’re going to go shopping?” I had to make a big deal of it. They just kept saying it’s in the manual, but I said that doesn’t make sense. I wrote a letter to the sheriff, and they finally relented. Now today you see two women getting in a car and nobody gives it a second look. There are just those little barriers along the way you had to challenge.
CELEBRITY ENCOUNTER: Tom Cruise. It was when I was working in L.A. and they used to use the old Hall of Justice for films. I can’t remember what movie it was. I was helping with security. We chatted and I took a picture with him. He’s got that brilliant smile.
PET PEEVE: I cannot handle people who mistreat animals. When they show animals in those kennels or horses that have been starved, it just drives me crazy. I love animals; they’re so innocent. I told my husband when I do retire, I’d like to foster some more dogs.
BEST CRIME NOVELISTS: I like the British mysteries. P.D. James is a favorite.
FAVORITE COP SHOW: I enjoy “Blue Bloods” right now. I love Tom Selleck; he’s the most gorgeous man ever. I like that every Sunday they sit down for a family dinner and discuss what happened. It’s good storytelling. It shows how nuanced it can all be.
PERSONAL MOTTO: One is “There’s no limit to what you can accomplish as long as you don’t care who gets the credit.” They say Ronald Reagan said it, but I think he took it from someone else.
BEST ADVICE TO YOUNG PEOPLE: I remember in school, we’re thinking “What am I going to do? What do I want to do?” There’s the pressure of having to stick with one thing. I tell young people, “Go out there and try different things and see what you like and what speaks to you now.” Especially these days, with all the entrepreneurial opportunities, it’s easy to morph into something else.