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Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats now says if he runs in 2012, he'll finish the term

On second thought, Pinellas County Sheriff Jim Coats won't resign in the middle of his next term to allow his chief deputy to take the helm.

Coats, 67, a two-term Republican, last week suggested he could seek re-election in 2012, resign two years into the term, then ask the governor to appoint his chief deputy, Robert Gualtieri, as his replacement.

The suggestion caused eye-rolling among some Republicans.

But Wednesday, Coats quashed the idea. He did not dispute the accuracy of remarks in Sunday's Times, but he did say he thought they were "kind of taken out of context."

"If I do run, and I haven't made the decision, it is my intent to finish the term. And it is my intent to finish this term," Coats said Wednesday, adding that he "never" had a plan to resign for Gualtieri.

But last week he had suggested leaving two years in was an option, though he planned to run again.

"That would give him some seat time in the position to campaign for the job," Coats said then. "I get two years, then I may want to step down then, and that would give him two years in the position to get comfortable."

Coats said will decide about a re-election bid in a month.

Coats considers Gualtieri, 49, a Republican, his "heir apparent," lauding the attorney's experience in investigations and detention, as well as helping run the agency.

Coats said he "firmly believes in succession planning," and intends to make a decision soon out of respect for Gualtieri or other candidates who want to run.

David DeCamp can be reached at ddecamp@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8779.

Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats now says if he runs in 2012, he'll finish the term 03/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, March 16, 2011 10:01pm]
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