BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County Sheriff and Congressman-elect Richard Nugent is recommending that the governor appoint Operations Chief Mike Maurer to finish the rest of Nugent's term.
Nugent, a Republican, was elected to the 5th Congressional seat in a landslide victory Tuesday. On Wednesday, he planned to send a letter to Gov. Charlie Crist's office to offer his resignation effective Dec. 31 and recommend that Maurer take the reins for the next two years. Nugent's term was to end in 2012.
"Mike has worked in just about every area of the Sheriff's Office from administration to the operations side," Nugent said. "We feel very comfortable that he's going to continue the legacy here and provide continuity of service."
The Governor's Office will solicit applications and make a decision as soon as possible, said Sterling Ivey, Crist's press secretary. He said a recommendation from a sheriff in good standing would obviously carry much weight.
"Absolutely," Ivey said. "We'll certainly consider the recommendation that Mr. Nugent provides as well as have an opportunity for other candidates to express interest, but they have to move pretty quickly."
Maurer, 47, said Nugent asked him about halfway between the August primary and Tuesday's general election if he could submit Maurer's name to the Governor's Office if Nugent won.
"It's kind of one of those things that takes your breath away," Maurer said.
The recommendation does not come as much of a surprise, though.
Last July, facing a tough budget picture and the impending retirement of his chief deputy, Michael Hensley, Nugent announced a reorganization. He eliminated the position of chief deputy and elevated the role of three bureau chiefs.
With Hensley's departure and the February 2009 death of Capt. Scott Bierwiler in a traffic crash, the office lacked an obvious frontrunner to replace Nugent. It did, however, have three new bureau chiefs.
Among them were Maurer and Chief Royce Decker, head of law enforcement services. Decker started his career at the North Miami Police Department in 1976 and has worked at the Hernando Sheriff's Office since 1983.
Maurer, who lives in Spring Hill with his wife, Victoria, and 5-year-old daughter, has been at the Sheriff's Office since 1988. He rose through the ranks with Bierwiler, and considers Nugent and former Sheriff Tom Mylander to be mentors, he said.
If selected by the governor, he said he would likely run for at least another term in 2012.
He knows the job would not be easy.
"It's challenging even more now with budget the way it is, but we have a significant core mission and we're going to focus on that and prove the best law enforcement service we can," Maurer said. "It's worked for my two mentors and hopefully it will work for me."
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.