Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Chris Nocco will have to balance work, politics as Pasco County's new sheriff

Chris Nocco answers questions at a news conference Tuesday in New Port Richey, days before he takes over as the new sheriff. 

BRENDAN FITTERER | Times

Chris Nocco answers questions at a news conference Tuesday in New Port Richey, days before he takes over as the new sheriff. 

Chris Nocco hasn't even taken the oath as Pasco County's new sheriff, and he says it's too early to get into specifics about next year's budget negotiations or who will serve on his command staff.

But he knows it's not too early to begin the political spadework needed to win election to a full term. On Monday, the day after Nocco takes over as Pasco's top cop, he's scheduled to meet with the Spirit of '76 Republican Club in New Port Richey.

After Gov. Rick Scott this week appointed him to fill the remainder of Sheriff Bob White's third term, Nocco indicated he might not seek the job in next year's election. Republican state committeeman Bill Bunting on Tuesday scoffed at that.

"There's no question in my mind that he'll run for a full term," Bunting said. "And if he does a good job, then he should be re-elected. The weight's on his shoulders to prove himself."

He already has several opponents hoping to replace him — from both parties.

"I think it's great when people go out and say, 'I could do the job better,' " Nocco said Tuesday. "That's democracy, and that's capitalism. The only thing I ask, … if they have better ideas, share them. Don't just say I could do it better."

Nocco, 35, said he's "primarily concerned with leading our agency." First order of business: meeting with deputies across the county.

Scott selected Nocco over two other finalists, Maj. Brian Head, who runs the Pasco County jail, and Kerry O'Connor, a former sergeant who left the agency in 2003 to practice law. She has maintained ties to the Sheriff's Office by representing deputies in disciplinary cases.

Head said Tuesday that he won't run in 2012, and he predicted that Nocco will be Pasco's sheriff "for quite a long time." But O'Connor said she will continue campaigning for the post.

"What's distinguished me is I came out into the private sector," she said. "Running my own business for the last eight years really gave me an appreciation of budgeting and cutting expenses."

Other declared candidates for the GOP primary are Michael Foxx, 65, a retired sergeant from the Hillsborough Sheriff's Office, and Roger Joseph Fortney, 58, a Pasco sheriff's corporal from 1989 to 2009. Several others are expected to run for the office, which pays $145,856 a year.

One Democrat already in the race is Kim Bogart, a former sheriff's commander who lost to White in 2008 by just 4,000 votes. Bogart made it clear on Tuesday that the campaign has begun.

"I'm surprised the governor would select someone with such limited experience to run our Sheriff's Office," he said, noting that Nocco was promoted from captain to major in March.

Before joining the Pasco office in 2009, Nocco was chief of staff at the Florida Highway Patrol for two years.

As the election approaches, Nocco could face a drag from the relatively unpopular governor if Scott's poll numbers don't rise.

"If it were based on qualifications, he wouldn't have even gotten that interview," said former county Commissioner Michael Cox, who is helping Bogart's campaign. "It was based on political payback."

Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, said Nocco has plenty of time to introduce himself to voters.

"He has just more than a year to prove that he has the ability and the work ethic to continue to be our sheriff," Fasano said. "And I think he will be successful."

Nocco is not new to politics. He spent four years as a top aide to then-House Speaker Marco Rubio, now a U.S. senator. He is friends with some powerful Tallahassee politicians, including House Speaker-designate Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, and Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Trinity.

"I'm very blessed to have friends that are in high offices," he said. "I think it's a bonus for our agency. You know what? When Tallahassee has money again, … I think those types of friendships and those types of connections are able to make Pasco a better place."

Nocco's wife, Bridget Gregory Nocco, is a political fundraiser who also lobbies on behalf of major corporations such as U.S. Sugar and HCA Healthcare. For her fundraising work during last fall's election, she earned $160,000 from the Republican Party of Florida. She was initially on Bill McCollum's finance team for his gubernatorial bid before switching to the Scott campaign after he won the GOP primary.

Bridget Nocco also is a friend of and former adviser to U.S. Rep. David Rivera, a Republican from Miami. A political committee linked with Rivera paid her $65,000 over 2 1/2 years for her work as a fundraiser.

She commutes between the capital and the family's home in Odessa. The Noccos have three children.

Lee Logan can be reached at llogan@sptimes.com or (727) 869-6236.

Chris Nocco will have to balance work, politics as Pasco County's new sheriff 04/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 26, 2011 8:51pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. 5 ways officials are trying to stop Pinellas' teenage car thieves

    Crime

    In the last week of June, bleeding into the first days of July, 20 cars went missing in the city of St. Petersburg.

     U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, left, takes notes as St. Petersburg Police Chief Anthony Holloway, right, talks about car thefts in St. Petersburg during a meeting earlier this month.
  2. 'Deadliest Catch' captain talks reality TV, Snoop Dogg and Tampa Bay

    Outdoors

    Keith Colburn is best known as captain of the Wizard on the Discovery Network series Deadliest Catch. Colburn and crew go to battle in the Bering Sea working one of the deadliest jobs in America. A seasoned veteran, Keith has filmed 11 seasons of the show and is still going strong with his relief captain …

    Captain Keith Colburn is seen in this undated photo courtesy of the Discovery Channel. Courtesy of the Discovery Channel
  3. Police: Video shows teens watching, laughing as man drowns

    Accidents

    COCOA — Authorities in Florida say a group of teens watched and laughed as a man drowned in a retention pond last week.

    Jamel Dunn drowned in a retention pond in the city of Cocoa on July 9. Cocoa police say they later discovered a group of teens recorded the 31-year-old's drowning on video. [Florida Today]
  4. As Rubio avoids public settings on health care, disabled Tampa man's story gets attention

    Blogs

    Michael Phillips was hunting demons Monday night when the news broke: The Senate health care bill was dying.

    Michael Phillips at home in Tampa with his mother, Karen Clay
  5. HomeTeam 100: Players 51-60

    Footballpreps

    TAMPA - Wharton defensive back AJ Hampton will help lead the Wildcats into the 2017 season. Taken 7-6-17 by Scott Purks