SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) – For decades, men have been occupying the First Deputy Director’s seat at the Illinois State Police (ISP), one of the top positions at the agency.

But not anymore. Rebecca Hooks officially took over the job this month, becoming the first woman in the agency’s more than 100-year history to serve as First Deputy Director.

“I was very excited because it’s such an amazing opportunity, and I really believe in our agency,” Hook said. “And I believe in the work we do and I believe in the mission that we have.”

In this new role, Hooks is second in command to Director Brendan Kelly, the head of the agency. She will oversee all of the department’s operations.

“There were always milestones along the way of first female deputy directors and first female assistant deputy directors,” Hooks said. “This was really, as far as sworn officers go, the last position that a female had not been appointed to.”

Hooks started her career with the ISP about 22 years ago. Before that, she worked as a forensic pathology assistant and met ISP members who recruited her to join law enforcement.

“I come from a law enforcement family,” Hooks said. “My father and my brother were both law enforcement officers in local agencies and it sounded like a wonderful opportunity.”

She started working in the Chicago area, later getting involved in the Crime Scene Services Command, receiving awards for her work at the agency and moving up the ranks.

“It was less about me being a woman and more about hard work in the position that I’m in, and then doors and opportunities opened for me,” Hooks said.

In her time with the ISP, Hooks said the agency has worked to bring in more women and increase diversity. Hooks also said she wants more young girls and women to know that they can also move up the ranks and hold high positions in law enforcement.

“You can do this,” Hooks said. “You can sit in this seat, that it’s not about your gender, it’s about your skill set and how hard you’re willing to work and the opportunities are there.”