Not many people can say they feel like they belong behind the steel-enforced doors of a county jail but that's the assertion of Ocean County's newly appointed warden.

Sandra Mueller said on the first day of her interview for a job as a penal counselor, she just had the feeling that that's were she belonged when she walked into the old Ocean County Jail facility in Toms River.

"A lot of people walk into jails, correctional facilities and they're really put off by it. They don't like the doors closing behind them and I just felt like that's where I was supposed to be. It was a very strong feeling from the very beginning," Mueller said.

Mueller was appointed to a five-year term by the Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders on Wednesday, December 3rd, to fill the post being vacated by retiring Warden Theodore Hutler on January 1st. They cited her years of experience and wealth of Education.

"Sandra has been an outstanding employee of Ocean County for more than three decades," said Freeholder John Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "I am 100 percent confident in her abilities to lead this department."

According to the county's press release, Mueller began working as a penal counselor in 1983, served as Director of Social Rehabilitative Services from 1997 to 1999, Chief of Administrative Services since 1999, second in command in administration and management and operations of the Ocean County Department of Corrections.

Mueller holds a Masters in Administrative Sciences from Fairleigh Dickinson University, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Psychology from Richard Stockton College and is a Certified Public Manager and Certified Jail Manager.

She also said that she's never had any real problems with the inmates because she shows them respect.

"I found that from the very beginning that the most important thing is not to be judgmental about who they are and why they're there. That's not my job. My job is to treat everybody fairly," she explained.

She describes one of her most rewarding times as helping to design the expansion of the Ocean County Jail that she calls a model for the state.

"We had a team from corrections that was involved in every aspect in that design. I think it's a wonderful building. I'm very proud of the job we did," said Mueller.

According to the Ocean County press release, the 140,000 square foot expansion includes, new jail cells, new medical, intake/release and associated vehicular sallyport, video visitation at the main entrance, staff support areas, a new main control area and other advance security features."

When asked if she was surprised about the appointment? Mueller said this is what she's been wanting to attain for very many years.

"You know, I feel very confident I can do the job and move the department forward."

Mueller will be Ocean County's first female warden and only two in the state. Atlantic County also has a female warden.

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