Sheriff

Some Hernando County residents were displeased in December 2010 when then-Gov. Charlie Crist picked Pasco County Undersheriff Al Nienhuis to finish the term of Hernando Sheriff Rich Nugent, who was elected to Congress. Eighteen months later, Nienhuis scored a decisive victory in the Republican primary, fending off attacks from retired Pasco Sheriff's Office Capt. Bobby Sullivan, a Brooksville native. Now Nienhuis faces Democrat Eddie McConnell, another longtime law enforcement officer with deep roots in Hernando County who has twice run unsuccessfully for sheriff. Nicholas Piccinich is running as a write-in candidate. Tony Marrero, Times staff writer

Alvin "Al" Nienhuis, 48

Hernando County sheriff

James "Eddie" McConnell, 59

Retired law enforcement officer

RepublicanPartyDemocrat
Born in St. Petersburg, Nienhuis started his career as a part-time officer for the Florida Marine Patrol. He joined the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco in 1989, working as a special agent. He worked his way up to captain, leading the Fort Myers field office for about three years. He joined the Pasco Sheriff's Office in 2000 and worked for 10 years as second in command under Bob White, overseeing a budget of $80 million and a staff of roughly 1,250 employees. He took his current post in January 2011.Experience McConnell, a Brooksville native, worked as a state corrections officer for a year before joining the Hernando County Sheriff's Office in 1978. Over 23 years, he served as a patrol deputy, vice and narcotics detective, school resources officer, crime prevention coordinator and training supervisor, among other roles. He ran for sheriff in 2000, losing to Rich Nugent by about 3 percentage points, and left the agency in 2001. He ran again in 2004, losing again to Nugent by a wider margin. He worked for the Brooksville and Crystal River police departments, then spent six years at the Groveland Police Department, retiring earlier this year at the rank of captain.
Associate's degree, St. Petersburg College; bachelor's degree in business administration and master's degree in business administration, both from the University of South Florida EducationHigh school diploma, some criminal justice coursework at Saint Leo College and paralegal studies at Kaplan College
Nienhuis says he wants to continue what he characterizes as progress since he came on board, leading the Sheriff's Office in a community he and his family have come to love. "My first year and a half as sheriff has been the most exciting and rewarding experience of my law enforcement career, and my team's success in reducing crime and solving the crimes that do occur is unprecedented," he says.Why do you want this job?McConnell says his long career in law enforcement and his knowledge of and connection to Hernando are motivating him to run a third time to "make a difference" at the Sheriff's Office.
Nienhuis credits the agency's staff for reducing Hernando's crime rate to the lowest it has been in 20 years, while clearance rates — the percentage of crimes solved — are the highest in two decades. His top priority, he says, would be to keep the crime rate low and continue to streamline the agency's budget. What would be your top priority for the agency if elected, and how would you tackle it?Streamlining administration would be his priority, McConnell says. He vows to evaluate all positions to see what might be cut to save money "while maintaining the levels of supervision and accountability needed to operate the office effectively. Front-line personnel would be the last place that I would cut."
The Sheriff's Office has already had to do some significant streamlining in recent years, cutting costs across the agency, Nienhuis says, and that effort will continue by relying on "lean management techniques" and bolstering the volunteer ranks.What are some ideas you have to cut the Sheriff's Office budget, or at least hold the line, given the county's fiscal constraints?Among McConnell's ideas: Review vehicle maintenance procedures for a more effective service guideline to extend the life of vehicles; require deputies on routine patrol to drive 5 mph under the posted speed limit to save fuel; cross-train staff to avoid the need for new positions.
Nienhuis says his MBA; his 25 years in law enforcement, including a decade as chief deputy in Pasco, and his time leading the Hernando agency make him the best candidate. "I have many years of proven leadership and experience leading a law enforcement agency, leading people and managing a substantial law enforcement budget," he says. What distinguishes you from your opponent and makes you the better person for the job?"Thirty-four years of law enforcement training, experience and working my way through the ranks while gaining administrative ability and the respect from the troops," McConnell says. "I served the citizens of Hernando County over two decades working at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office. Equally important is my lifelong love and dedication to Hernando County. I will provide a service-driven rather than a politically driven Sheriff's Office."
Homes, rental property, vehicles and other goods, mutual funds, savings AssetsHome, timeshare property, retirement fund, investments, collectibles
Mortgages, home equity loan, credit debt LiabilitiesMortgages, auto loans
Sheriff's salary; Pasco Sheriff's Office payout; residential property IncomePension
Married; three daughtersPersonalDivorced; four grown sons
sheriffnienhuis2012.com Website mcconnell4sheriff.com
sheriffnienhuis2012@gmail.comEmailjmcconn5@tampabay.rr.com

About the job: The sheriff is the top law enforcement officer in the county. The sheriff serves a four-year term and is paid $129,215 a year.

Hernando County sheriff: James 'Eddie' McConnell (D), Alvin 'Al' Nienhuis (R)

Some Hernando County residents were displeased in December 2010 when then-Gov. Charlie Crist picked Pasco County Undersheriff Al Nienhuis to finish the term of Hernando Sheriff Rich Nugent, who was elected to Congress. Eighteen months later, Nienhuis scored a decisive victory in the Republican primary, fending off attacks from retired Pasco Sheriff's Office Capt. Bobby Sullivan, a Brooksville native. Now Nienhuis faces Democrat Eddie McConnell, another longtime law enforcement officer with deep roots in Hernando County who has twice run unsuccessfully for sheriff. Nicholas Piccinich is running as a write-in candidate.

Hernando County sheriff: James 'Eddie' McConnell (D), Alvin 'Al' Nienhuis (R) 10/17/12 [Last modified: Thursday, October 18, 2012 10:52am]

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