This has been an interesting political campaign.
Both Bob Gualtieri and Everett Rice are lawyers, both have significant experience in law enforcement and criminal justice. Both are men of high integrity, both want to serve their county, and both have mounted a significant campaign effort.
Rice is not only a seasoned law enforcement professional with great record as the former Sheriff, he is a good politician. Well versed in all of the aspects a political campaign, he has developed a diverse grass roots effort of highly dedicated supporters and deployed them wisely.
A few recent gaffs have led to some criticism, but when taken in context the gaffs really have little to do with being Pinellas County Sheriff and more to do with the "gotcha" questions used in political reporting and debates.
Gualtieri is likewise a well-seasoned law enforcement professional.
He is however not so well developed as a politician. This is his first run for political office, and while he picked up the operational side of law enforcement from former Sheriff Jim Coats, he apparently wasn't watching Coats carefully and missed Political Strategy 101. Coats is every bit as good in a crowd or in a debate as Rice, Gualtieri not so much.
Gualtieri is a quick study, but he has struggled from the outset with the politics of politics. Very tentative at first, he has gotten better but still often comes off as aloof in a crowd.
The Gualtieri camp has held the campaign pretty close to the vest and passed on some of the political insiders and consultants who would have liked to be on board. Lack of professional campaign help has shown in planning and event participation.
Being Sheriff is not about running a slick campaign or putting up the most signs. Obviously you need to get elected, but most everyone knows who the two serious candidates for Sheriff are: Rice and Gualtieri.
With the downturn in the economy, law enforcement changed forever. Gone are the days of Counties and Cities throwing ever-growing sums of money at law enforcement. For the first time law enforcement finds itself in a cost/benefit argument. Bigger might be better, but it just cannot happen.
The business of the Sheriff's office is now almost as important to the overall mission of public safety as the street work.
It is one thing to say you'll deploy the latest technology while campaigning and another when faced with making the acquisition decisions. The Sheriff needs to understand how it all works, how it all fits together, what the cost/benefits are and not just sign the purchase orders.
That's where Gualtieri stands apart. He has the law enforcement basics, organization insight, technical savvy and functional acumen to successfully run an organization of the size and complexity of the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
There are some who think Rice will take us back to the sheriff of old with a few added technical bells and whistles, and all will be well. Not so.
Being Sheriff in this County is a 60-to-80 hour a week grind with your nose in all of the details. Crime may be down but criminal sophistication is growing every day. The old solutions just don't fit today's law enforcement needs.
If anyone knows what it takes to be a good sheriff Grady Judd does.
According to Grady, "these days, being a Sheriff means more than pinning on a star and hiring more deputies every year. A Sheriff must be innovative and be able to cope with ever-shrinking budgets. Sheriff Bob Gualtieri has demonstrated his leadership abilities in the toughest of times. The people of Pinellas County are fortunate to have him."
I'll go with Grady.
Bob Gualtieri is the right choice to lead the Pinellas County Sheriff's office for the next four years.
In the interest of full disclosure I have donated to and worked on the Bob Gualtieri campaign for Sheriff. I also worked with Bob and a number of the members his technical staff while I was with the St. Petersburg Police Department....Gene Webb
e-mail doc at:email@example.com or send me a Facebook Friend request at Gene Webb