Bruce Bartlett, the longtime No. 2 prosecutor for Pinellas and Pasco counties, has retired in a rare changing of the guard among senior leadership at the State Attorney's Office.
And in another development, top prosecutor Bernie McCabe said he is reconsidering his previously announced plans to retire at the end of his current term.
Bartlett, 59, was chief assistant state attorney for more than two decades, and worked for the agency 35 years. He retired at the end of December.
But he might be coming back.
McCabe said Bartlett would be eligible to return to the agency after six months. He declined to comment on whether he planned to rehire Bartlett at that point.
"Certainly I would consider that, but he's retired now," McCabe said.
Bartlett did not say if he plans to return to the office. He merely said, "I'm too young to retire at this point in my life."
If he does return to the office, he would be allowed to collect a salary and retirement pay at the same time, a practice that has sometimes been called "double-dipping."
McCabe, who is 66, may not be ready for retirement either.
McCabe told the Tampa Bay Times in a 2011 interview that he planned to run for one last four-year term and retire when it ended in 2016. In a separate interview at the same time, Bartlett said, "I would actively pursue that position," after McCabe's retirement.
In an interview on Monday, McCabe acknowledged, "I'm having second thoughts."
He said he still enjoys running the office that he has devoted his career to, and, "I think we're doing a good job." The work has been such a part of him, he said, that leaving "is hard to contemplate."
Therefore, McCabe said he is considering running again in 2016.
Bartlett repeated on Monday that he would be interested in running if McCabe bowed out, but said he would not run against his longtime boss and friend. "No, never happen," he said.
The developments are intriguing in an office that has enjoyed remarkable stability for decades. McCabe has spent 41 years in the office, 21 of them in the top job. His new chief assistant is William Loughery, who has spent nearly 30 years in the office. Another key prosecutor, Beverly Andringa, retired late last year after more than 30 years.
"This is pretty unusual, I would think, to have that much veteran talent," McCabe said.
Bartlett said that after he had served 30 years in the office, he entered the "DROP" program, which requires employees to leave the office after an additional five years. However, they can return to state employment after a six-month hiatus.
McCabe and Bartlett have worked closely not only on supervisory matters for the office, but also sometimes in the courtroom. They worked together in the 2012 prosecution of Nicholas Lindsey, who was convicted of murdering St. Petersburg police Officer David S. Crawford.
Curtis Krueger can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8232. Follow him on Twitter @ckruegertimes.