KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A new era is beginning in Knox County as a former prosecutor adjusts to his new role as a judge of Knox County Criminal Court.

After taking his oath of office, Hector Sanchez is now Tennessee’s first ever trial court judge of Hispanic heritage and he’s almost ready to get to work.

“I’m excited to serve the citizens of Knox County,” Sanchez said. “I think inclusion is very important. I think diversity on the bench is important.”

While he looks forward to taking on new cases in his new role as Criminal Courts Division II Judge, for Sanchez, earning a judge’s seat has been a long road.

“I did grow up with a mother, a single mother of four children, in public housing with government assistance. I could have very easily went a different way. I think that’s what kind of what was expected really,” he said.

Sanchez took his oath of office earlier this week after Governor Bill Lee appointed him as a 6th Judicial District Criminal Court Judge. Sanchez is taking over for Judge Kyle Hixson who was appointed to the federal Court of Criminal Appeals – Eastern Section.

“I came from the district attorney’s office where I acted as an advocate,” Sanchez said. “That is something obviously I will not be in a position to do, nor will I do. I have to look at cases, individual cases, and every case I look at differently. Again, I have to look at it as a neutral and detached magistrate.”

While working under Judges Bob McGee and Kyle Hixson, Sanchez says he learned a lot from his mentors.

Sanchez is an honorably discharged Marine and also believes his past experience in the military will translate into his courtroom.

“In the Marine Corps, we kind of operate under core values. Those being honor, courage and commitment and those are things every day I try to apply to every situation that I’m involved in. It’s something that’s engrained into you during boot camp and it’s something that I still of course have ingrained in me today,” he said.

Sanchez will manage a docket with more than 1,000 criminal cases a year. He’s expected to start presiding over the court on Oct. 17.

Despite being excited as the new criminal court judge, Sanchez is very humble and thanks his mother for leading him in the right direction.

Sanchez earned his law degree at the University of Tennessee and interned at the Knox County District Attorney’s office while in college.