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Diverse positions define Democratic candidates for sheriff

The two Democrats running for sheriff agree that Pasco County needs a change. From that point on, they part ways.

To Jeff Deremer, the race is about electing someone who was raised in Pasco County and understands its people.

To Kim Bogart, it's about choosing a seasoned police officer with leadership experience and budget savvy.

The winner of the primary will face either incumbent Sheriff Bob White or his Republican challenger Robert Sullivan in November's general election.

Deremer, 38, first came into the public eye as a high school athlete. He played football at Ridgewood High, then went on to Florida State where he earned a degree in criminology.

For 15 years, he has worked in Pasco as a probation officer for the state Department of Corrections. Part of his position is to be a liaison to the Sheriff's Office. He says that perspective has given him insight into the agency's problems.

"What I see with Sheriff White is he doesn't speak to his employees at all," he says.

Deremer calls himself a "union man" and says he would improve the poor relations between the bargaining unit that represents deputies and the administration.

In addition to morale, Deremer says, violent crime is his primary concern.

When he was growing up, he never heard about gangs in Pasco County. Now, he says, they are proliferating.

The only way to fix it: put more deputies on the street.

But whoever sits in the sheriff's chair come January will have to do so with diminishing resources. Following this year's passage of a constitutional amendment cutting property taxes, local governments across Florida are having to slash expenses.

Deremer proposes to cut salaries for Sheriff's Office administrators, including himself, and impose fines for crimes such as driving under the influence and probation violations.

Such a plan, though, would generate at most about $60,000 a year — not even enough to pay for the salary and benefits of one new deputy.

Deremer's answer: "It's something."

Money matters are what Bogart, a 56-year-old former sheriff's captain, says make him the superior candidate.

Bogart boasts 29 years of law enforcement experience, including 16 as a commander. After White forced him out during a leadership sweep in 2001, Bogart began consulting and analyzing other agencies for efficiency.

That qualifies him, he says, to competently manage the Sheriff's Office's $86-million budget.

He objects to Deremer's plan of "taxing the criminals," saying such a program would be impractical to manage with little return.

"We are not in the bill-collecting business," he says.

Bogart says he would identify and eliminate wasteful spending in the agency, citing take-home cars and free gas for several civilian employees as well as replacement uniforms and new badge holders for deputies. (Those issues were raised in the campaign by Sullivan, the Republican candidate.)

Bogart criticizes White for not being proactive in his annual budget requests and anticipating the need for more deputies.

"It was so predictable that the crime rate would be where we are now," he says. "(White) pandered to the County Commission those first four years. He self-admittedly low-balled them."

Because of his background at the agency he seeks to lead, Bogart has had to answer for his years spent working in the upper echelons of past administrations. Sheriff Jim Gillum was widely maligned, putting his own girlfriend on the payroll in an unadvertised job and drawing a state investigation for his hiring practices at the jail. Gillum's successor, Lee Cannon, was voted out because of perceived mismanagement of the agency.

Bogart says he spoke up when he felt he could while trying to keep his job.

He says: "I think that I should be judged on what I do."

Pasco's Democrats will have their say Aug. 26.

Molly Moorhead can be reached at moorhead@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6245.

Diverse positions define Democratic candidates for sheriff 08/16/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, August 19, 2008 1:55pm]
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