Topeka Attorney General Paul Morrison on Wednesday promoted Bob Blecha of Lawrence to lead the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Blecha, currently an assistant director with the KBI, has been in law enforcement his entire career, starting as a sheriff in the 1960s.
Blecha "epitomizes what a real Kansas lawman is," said Morrison.
Blecha won the $100,000 per year job over 20 applicants to replace KBI Director Larry Welch, also a Lawrence resident, who is retiring after leading the agency since 1994.
Morrison said Blecha will focus on beefing up investigations of sexual predators and fraud, especially on the Internet, as well as methamphetamine use and production.
Both Morrison and Blecha emphasized that one of the main jobs of the KBI is to help local law enforcement with investigations and criminal laboratory services.
"We have a unique opportunity to improve the way Kansas assists law enforcement by creating innovative programs to crack down on Internet crime," Blecha said. He said he hoped soon to add more agents to a cybercrimes task force.
Blecha will take over the agency that in the last fiscal year had approximately 310 employees and a $24.7 million budget.
He is a Vietnam veteran who returned to his hometown of Belleville in 1967 and was elected sheriff of Republic County At that time he was the youngest sheriff in the nation at 23, according to the attorney general's office.
In 1979, Blecha joined the KBI working out of Hays. In 1994, he was transferred to the Topeka office where he worked his way up the ranks.
Blecha said he was a registered Republican. Morrison is a Democrat.
When asked about Blecha's age, 64, Morrison quipped, "We still think he has some curl in his tail."