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First days in office were a whirlwind--March 2013 Wakulla Times

By CHARLIE CREEL
Sheriff, Wakulla County

The days and months of effort leading up to becoming Wakulla County Sheriff turned into a four step process for me. I campaigned throughout the months leading up to the Nov. 6 election; I stood back and let the voters make their decision on Nov. 6; I took part in the transition with Sheriff Donnie Crum in November and December; and then the work really began with the swearing in on Jan. 8.

The campaign was hectic, but nothing compared to the whirlwind of activities once I took my seat in my new office. There were details to work out about the swearing in ceremony, sworn staff members to swear in the next night, staff credentials cards to create and sign and the normal routine of running law enforcement, the county jail and our communications operations.
It has been a hectic time but it has been a joyous time. I have a tight knit family and watching my family well up with emotion during the swearing in ceremony filled me with great emotion too. The realization that the long journey to run this agency had been fulfilled filled me with an array of emotions from nervousness to joy to elation.

Former Sheriff Donnie Crum and I worked together to create a seamless transition period for both myself and Sheriff Crum’s staff. The transition was very smooth and I want to thank Sheriff Crum for allowing me to come into his office in November and get ready for the new administration which took place on Jan. 8. He allowed me to use an office across from his own until his retirement.

The two months following the General Election passed quickly and Undersheriff Trey Morrison and I found ourselves ready for the first week of January. Sheriff Crum wrapped up his affairs on Friday, Jan. 4 and Monday, Jan. 7 and I hit the ground running the next day.

To abide by the laws of Florida, we had to get some housekeeping issues taken care of quickly. The swearing in ceremony for me was held Jan. 8 at 4 p.m. in the courthouse with Judge Jill Walker presiding.

The ceremony was a wonderful opportunity to share the fruits of my election victory with family, friends, supporters and WCSO staff. It was an emotional event for me as I could see how my election to sheriff touched my family members. When I saw my family members getting emotional during the ceremony I wasn’t far behind them as I attempted to remain composed.

One of the quotes that came to mind for me was from Albert Einstein who said, “The world is a dangerous place to live: not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”

I want Wakulla County to know that we’re going to do something about it. I was proud to have my wife Cheryl, my mother Virginia Barnes and my daughter Hillary by my side when we proceeded through the ceremony. They were always supportive of me when I first ran for sheriff in 2008 and again this time. The election process is difficult, expensive and grueling to endure. Nobody gives you an office as a constitutional officer; you have to go out and earn it and get your message to the public. I felt like I was able to do that after a close election in 2008.

Sheriff Crum and I have had similar messages for the public since Nov. 6. This has been a long election cycle and in some ways it divided our community. It is time for us to heal. We have addressed putting the election behind us and attempting to create a unity within our community. Speak to your neighbors when you see them around the community. That is what I ask for from you.

I plan to examine programs that were once active and have fallen by the wayside and see if the community will benefit from having them in place again. I felt like the dog that was chasing the car. I caught the car and now I have to figure out what to do with it. But I have many ideas that will begin to come to fruition as we take one bite at a time.

I want to help people in the community and I look forward to meeting even more people than I met during the past two campaign cycles.
On staff swearing in night, I wanted each member of the agency to understand that I think everyone is important to the effective operation of the sheriff’s office. I wanted each of my sworn officers to be seated alphabetically during their swearing in ceremony on Jan. 9 because I wanted them to understand that they are all important regardless of rank. I had ranking officers sitting with the deputies who sat with reserve officers and Public Service Officers who assist us as volunteers.

Undersheriff Morrison did an outstanding job explaining the meaning of the sheriff’s office badge and what the badge means to him. I agree with him that each member of our staff who wears the badge has earned that right and they have earned my trust.

I cannot stress enough the dedication it takes to become a law enforcement officer or detention deputy with the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office. It takes dedication for each individual to serve the public 12 hours a day. My staff serves on Christmas, Thanksgiving and every other holiday on the calendar. My staff serves during the day and covers the roads and jail during the nighttime hours. We do not get to close our doors for a few hours. We are open 24 hours per day and 365 days per year. We cover an extra day during Leap Year!

Our law enforcement, detention, communications, administrative and support staff are outstanding and professional and I back them 100 percent.
We’re a small community and we can disagree on issues concerning our county. But remember the person you disagree with, you might run into at Wal-Mart or Winn-Dixie. So they are still your neighbors and you should still be friends.

I want to thank everyone who attended the swearing in ceremony and the reception that followed it. I appreciate everyone who spoke on my behalf, especially my friend Jim Lee who I met in 1974 when we were starting out on the Florida Highway Patrol. I appreciated his kind comments.

He told the audience that I could do anything and that I will always be willing to help everybody. It doesn’t matter about your economic or social standing. You are still a person.
I appreciated Jim’s kind words back on Jan. 8 and I feel they just describe who I am. I want to remain true to who I am as a person.

I look forward to getting out into the community and helping people. I could have looked anywhere in the state to live and work but I chose Wakulla County. It was a tough election and now it is time for the community to come together and heal. We must put aside our political differences and our political bickering. We don’t need that reputation in Wakulla County.
I am very excited, but at the same time I know I have a lot of work ahead of me.

***As a former Florida Highway Patrol Trooper I want to share some statistics with you regarding traffic crashes in Wakulla County. I also ask you to be extra careful when driving on our roads, don’t drink and drive and don’t text and drive, wear your seatbelts and pass along these driving tips to your children so they also create good habits.

The Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office investigated 405 traffic crashes in 2012. What was the most dangerous month to be driving on Wakulla County roads in 2012? Statistically, the month of November was the most dangerous as the WCSO worked 54 traffic crashes during the 30 day month.

The month of April ranked as the second most dangerous with 45 traffic crashes during the 30 day month. March ranked third with 36 crashes and October had 35.
January, February, June, July and August also recorded at least 30 traffic crashes.

The safest month to drive in Wakulla was September with only 24 crashes followed by December with only 25 crashes and May with 27 crashes. Each month recorded less than one crash per day.
Wakulla County averaged 1.109 traffic crashes per day in 2012. Unfortunately, several of the traffic crashes did result in fatalities.

Be careful out there and see you next month!

 

Know Your Zone