Being the top law enforcement officer in Sonoma County is something career prosecutor Jill Ravitch has wanted for a long time.

But with the challenges facing the incoming district attorney, some might say be careful what you wish for.

When Ravitch, 52, of Sebastopol, takes over Monday at noon, she will be faced almost immediately with the task of cutting expenses as much as 25 percent, possibly through staff layoffs that will most certainly affect her ability to handle cases.

By the second week of January she'll be expected to come to the table with County Administrator Veronica Ferguson and suggest ways to help correct an expected multimillion dollar countywide deficit.

Asked recently about her plan, Ravitch wasn't specific. But she said there may be hard times ahead.

"Nothing is set in stone," Ravitch said. "We are going to be confronted with incredible challenges in the new year."

Otherwise, as she has repeated since winning election in June after her second attempt over Stephan Passalacqua, she'll analyze the functions of the department in the first 30 days before making changes.

A re-jiggering of the office is expected some time in February.

A few plans:

-- Ravitch said all 45 attorneys in her office will handle cases, including managers. "Leadership begins at the top," she said. "I don't want to ask an attorney to do anything I wouldn't do myself."

-- She will dismantle the specialized homicide unit and spread those cases throughout the office.

-- She said a priority is getting to know everyone in the office and in other branches of the criminal justice system.

-- Another priority is to be sure cases are handled "consistently and effectively."

Any wiggle room in the district attorney's budget was eliminated in a spate of last-minute hiring by Passalacqua. At least five new attorneys remain on a year-long probation and could bear the brunt of cuts.

The office's fiscal 2010 budget was about $22 million with a payroll of about 125 employees.