Topeka Attorney General Paul Morrison on Wednesday promoted Bob Blecha, of Lawrence, to lead the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
Blecha, 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," Morrison said.
Blecha got 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 beef up investigations of sexual predators and fraud, especially on the Internet, as well as methamphetamine use and production.
Both Morrison and Blecha emphasized that a main job 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 agents to a cybercrimes task force.
Blecha will take over an agency that last fiscal year had about 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 Republic County sheriff - the youngest sheriff in the nation at 23, according to Morrison'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.
Blecha said he is 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."