Lt. Col. Sandra Karsten — the Missouri State Highway Patrol's second-in-command — is Gov. Eric Greitens' choice to be the statewide agency's new leader.
Karsten, 53, follows Col. J. Bret Johnson, whose retirement began Wednesday. She'll serve as acting colonel until the state Senate confirms her appointment.
Greitens announced the appointment Wednesday afternoon, during a brief visit with the Patrol's current recruit class.
"Here's what you can expect of me," the governor told the 29-member class. "I am always going to stand with our law enforcement officers on the front lines.
"And I'm also going to make sure that you have leaders who have your back."
Greitens wants Missouri to be the finest state in the nation for law enforcement.
State law requires the Missouri Senate to confirm the appointment — then the Patrol's superintendent serves "at the pleasure of the governor."
Karsten told Greitens, the recruit class and about 50 Patrol employees gathered in the General Headquarters conference room she was honored "to accept this appointment. I do so with the support of my husband, Tim, and our sons John and Paul.
"I also accept this appointment with the tremendous support that's been shown throughout my career by the men and women of the Missouri State Highway Patrol."
She thanked the troopers, driver examiners, criminalists and "all my co-workers, both active and retired" for their service to the now-85-year-old agency and said their sacrifices made it possible for her to accept Greitens' appointment.
The governor noted Karsten is the Patrol's first female officer to be promoted through the ranks from trooper to superintendent.
"Leaders like Lt. Col. Karsten are going to keep our streets safe and our citizens safe," he said. "I know she will lead with integrity, strength and courage."
Karsten told reporters after the ceremony that being the first woman to head the Highway Patrol shows how the agency has changed over the years.
"The Patrol is an organization that is steeped in tradition, with great people," she explained. "I think this promotion signifies how inclusive we have become as an organization.
"In the 1930s, when we were organized, we had all white males, and they were of a certain height. We've just grown, as society has changed as well."
Karsten has been the Patrol's second-in-command since December 2012 — serving as part of the eight-member command staff under superintendents Ron Replogle and Johnson.
During Wednesday's announcement ceremony, she told the recruit class and the Patrol's employees: "I promise to work hard for you, regardless of your position or your assignment.
"I will fight for the tools for each of you to be safe, to provide the safest service that we can to the citizens of Missouri."
She reminded reporters the Patrol's technology has changed a lot since she joined the agency in September 1985 — and today the Patrol is "on the cusp of a lot of technology coming in."
When she began as a road trooper in Audrain and Callaway counties, Karsten said, there were no median barriers along Interstate 70, and the troopers' cars had only a radio with high and low frequency bands.
Today's troopers have cellphones, in-car computers and other advancements.
In addition to improving the use of technology, Karsten said she hopes to "help reduce some of the backlog in our crime lab, because that does translate into helping law enforcement statewide."
During the ceremony, she promised the recruits and Patrol employees she would "listen first, and then lead. I will work in such a way that is worthy of your trust and your confidence."
And, Karsten said, "I look forward to being progressive in our approach to solving the issues that we face, and making a difference in the state of Missouri."
She reminded reporters today's troopers face more complicated issues than many had to deal with in earlier years.
"We've become diverse as an organization, not only with the composition of people but also in our duties," Karsten said.
The Karstens live in Wardsville. She's been married to Tim Karsten since 1991 — he's a Blair Oaks High School industrial arts teacher and wrestling coach.
Related article: Sandy Karsten was featured in Women in Uniform, the cover story for the May-June 2014 issue of HER Magazine.