NEW PORT RICHEY — More than a decade ago, Sen. Mike Fasano helped Bob White get elected as Pasco County sheriff. On Wednesday, hours after White announced his resignation in the middle of his third term, Fasano said this of the coveted vacancy: "I'm sure we'll see everybody and their brother coming out of the woodwork to run for sheriff."
On Thursday, Fasano stepped out himself.
He told the Times he might run for the position after his term ends in 2012.
"I'm always interested in serving the people of Pasco County," said Fasano, 52, R-New Port Richey.
"I definitely would consider it," he said, "and I'll leave it at that."
White said he will leave April 30 to spend more time with his 18-month-old granddaughter.
But he isn't doing much to tamp down speculation that the real reason he's retiring is to take a job in Gov. Rick Scott's administration.
He was at the Capitol on Thursday when he ran into a Times reporter.
White said he was in Tallahassee for meetings related to his roles on Scott's transition team and with the Florida Sheriffs Association. He said he isn't angling for any job with Scott and that the governor has not asked him about filling any posts, either.
"What part of that little word 'no' don't you people understand?" White said.
But he still declined to rule it out.
Scott will appoint White's successor, who will serve until the 2012 election. Amy Graham, deputy press secretary for Scott's administration, said no applications for the position had been filed by late Thursday afternoon.
A leading candidate for the interim post is Pasco Sheriff's Maj. Chris Nocco, 35, a former chief of staff at the Florida Highway Patrol and aide to then-House Speaker Marco Rubio. Nocco on Thursday would not say whether he plans to file an application for the appointment. He said he needs to talk with his wife and the other members of White's command staff.
"We have to stay together" as a unit, Nocco said of the top administrators. "Many people are thinking about it, but it's a big responsibility."
Nocco is from Philadelphia and his father is a retired city police captain. Nocco said it was his boyhood dream to work in law enforcement and got his degree in criminal justice at the University of Delaware, where he attended on a football scholarship. His master's degree is in public administration. Nocco met his wife, Bridget, while working for the Fairfax County Police Department in Virginia. Bridget, who grew up in Florida, is a longtime political operative and has been a fundraiser for many Republican candidates, including Scott. The couple have three young children.
Nocco said he came to the Pasco Sheriff's Office in 2009 because his job at the FHP was administrative and he wanted to be a sworn officer again.
"It was an honor when Sheriff White asked me to come serve," he said.
He said he is sad to see White go, although he supports his decision.
"Sheriff White is the real deal," Nocco said. "He is a good man. His heart is in the right place."
White's early leave gives the person who serves the remaining term an edge in the 2012 elections. But the interim sheriff could decline to run. That would open the door for Fasano, whose name has also been mentioned as a candidate for Congress or even for a state House seat.
Asked about the possibility of Fasano running, Republican state committeeman Bill Bunting quipped: "He's probably never had a handgun in his hand. What's he going to use, a water pistol?"
Bunting's personal differences with Fasano have been well-documented. Even putting those aside, Bunting said, average citizens might question Fasano's credentials.
"Usually you've got to have some sort of law enforcement background to run for sheriff," he said.
Times/Herald Tallahassee Bureau Chief Steve Bousquet and Times staff writer Jodie Tillman contributed to this report. Erin Sullivan can be reached at (727) 869-6229 or firstname.lastname@example.org.