BROOKSVILLE — Robert "Bobby" Sullivan spent his law enforcement career at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office but dreamed of making a bid to lead the agency in his home county.
"But we had a whole string of good sheriffs, from (Tom) Mylander to Rich Nugent, and the opportunity never presented itself," said Sullivan, a 49-year-old Brooksville native.
That opportunity, Sullivan says, has arrived. He has filed to run in 2012 for the post currently held by his former Pasco supervisor, Hernando Sheriff Al Nienhuis. Both men are Republicans.
Sullivan retired from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office as a captain in 2007. He was with the agency for 26 years, serving for 10 years as commander of the narcotics, vice and criminal intelligence divisions. Nienhuis, as second-in-command to Sheriff Bob White, was Sullivan's direct supervisor for about six years.
In 2008, Sullivan ran against White, losing in the Republican primary.
Nienhuis was appointed last year by then-Gov. Charlie Crist after Nugent won the 5th District congressional seat. Nienhuis started in January, and his term ends January 7, 2013.
Sullivan, who has worked as executive director of public safety for Saint Leo University since 2009, was among the applicants for the Hernando job. He said then that if he got the job, he'd serve as a "caretaker" until the 2012 election, then step aside to let candidates fight it out for the seat.
Now he's ready to challenge his former boss, if necessary. Sullivan said he is the better candidate because of his experience as a longtime county resident.
"I think there's a need for someone who has strong roots in the county, a strong connection to the citizens," he said.
The differences go beyond Hernando ties, though, according to Sullivan.
"We have completely different law enforcement philosophies," a fact that resulted in frequent debates during their time in Pasco, he said. The relationship remained cordial, he said.
Asked to cite specific areas where he diverged with Nienhuis, Sullivan said, "I'm going to let those things air out throughout the next eight or nine months."
Nienhuis on Thursday said he wasn't ready to say for certain that he will run and declined to comment on Sullivan's filing.
"If and when I decide to announce, competition is a great thing," he said. "It's what makes this country great."
A graduate of Hernando High School, Sullivan has bachelor's and master's degrees in criminal justice from Saint Leo. He is married with two daughters, ages 17 and 8.
Tony Marrero can be reached at (352) 848-1431 or firstname.lastname@example.org.