Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Gov. Rick Scott appoints Chief Deputy Bob Gualtieri to be interim Pinellas County sheriff

LARGO — The No. 2 at the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office will soon be the No. 1: Chief Deputy Bob Gualtieri will be the county's next sheriff, Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday.

Gualtieri, an attorney who began his career as a detention deputy in 1982, will replace Sheriff Jim Coats when he resigns Nov. 7. As interim sheriff, Gualtieri will serve out the rest of Coats' term, which ends in January 2013.

"I'm excited and eager for the opportunity and humbled by the confidence the governor has in appointing me to this position," said Gualtieri, 50, who is married with three daughters, one in college and one recently graduated.

"I look forward to continuing the great work Sheriff Coats and I have done these past years and dealing with the challenges we still have."

But the governor's decision does more than smooth the transition at the top of the Sheriff's Office — it also impacts the 2012 election to succeed Coats.

That's because Gualtieri is running for the permanent job against a field of seven candidates, including former Sheriff Everett Rice. Like Scott, Rice and Gualtieri are both Republicans.

Rice, 67, left in 2004 and was replaced by his then-chief deputy, Coats, who was already running for sheriff and won the office himself just weeks later.

But this go-around is different. Rice is not only running for the job he once held, but he also applied to be interim sheriff after Coats announced his departure.

Rice said he wasn't surprised by the choice. He complained that the governor and his staff never even contacted him to interview for the interim job, despite his resume as a former sheriff and state House member.

"It's kind of insulting the governor didn't sit down and talk with me about it," Rice said. "I'm saddened by the fact the governor didn't recognize my reputation and my record and all the support I have in the community."

But Coats praised the governor's decision and said he personally recommended Gualtieri. Coats decided to resign after 40 years with the agency to spend more time with his wife, Cat, while she battles breast cancer.

"I think this affords the Sheriff's Office an opportunity for a seamless transition," Coats said, "and affords us the ability to stay focused in tough economic times as we prepare for the next budget cycle."

As second-in-command, Gualtieri has built his reputation by helping the Sheriff's Office grapple with four years of grueling budget cuts: the agency has lost $108 million from its general fund and more than 600 positions.

He was also the point man in developing Pinellas Safe Harbor, the former jail facility-turned-homeless shelter.

Gualtieri worked his way up through the ranks, then left to get his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. He graduated in 2002 and went into private practice.

Coats asked Gualtieri to return to the agency as general counsel in 2006, then named him chief deputy in 2008. Gualtieri has been running the agency's day-to-day operations ever since. The agency has a $220 million budget, employs 1,500 patrol and detention deputies and 2,700 people total.

"This is a totally different agency than when Everett Rice was here," Gualtieri said. "The structure is different. The daily operations are different. The budget is totally different.

"The way things were done four or eight years ago don't work anymore."

Scott's decision gives Gualtieri a public pulpit to campaign for the 2012 race, which many Republicans expect to be expensive and tough.

"This gives the voters of Pinellas County an opportunity to see me and to get to know me and what I bring to the table," Gualtieri said, "and that is providing cost-effective public safety."

But Rice downplayed that advantage in next year's Republican primary in August. Rice unseated an incumbent when he won office in 1988, then earned a reputation for cleaning up the Sheriff's Office.

"I've beaten an eight-year incumbent one time, I'm sure I can beat a nine-month incumbent," Rice said. "The choice of who is going to be the sheriff belongs to the voters."

Gov. Rick Scott appoints Chief Deputy Bob Gualtieri to be interim Pinellas County sheriff 10/07/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Seminole Heights restaurants face struggles amid killings, post-Irma

    Food & Dining

    SEMINOLE HEIGHTS — The neighborhood's hip circle of popular, well-regarded restaurants is feeling the squeeze in the wake of a recent killing spree. And the timing is rough.

    Ella's American Folk Art Cafe. Times files
  2. St. Pete-Clearwater holding food, supply drive for hurricane refugees


    CLEARWATER — St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are holding a food and supply drive for the Hispanic Outreach Center in Pinellas County. The event, which will benefit refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria, will be held Tuesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the airport at 14700 Terminal Blvd.

    St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport and Allegiant Air are hosting a food and supplies drive Tuesday for refugees displaced by Hurricane Maria. | [Times file photo]
  3. A buzz-worthy look at the Astros-Dodgers World Series matchup

    The Heater

    Houston Astros' Yuli Gurriel is congratulated by Jose Altuve after scoring during the fifth inning of Game 7 of baseball's American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees Saturday, Oct. 21, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) TXMG170
  4. Florida, FSU try to ignore death threats, angry fans


    GAINESVILLE — Frustration over uncharacteristically down seasons at Florida and Florida State has started to spill over from message boards and start crossing real-world lines.

    Fans watch the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville, Fla. At the half, Florida was up 10 to 3.
  5. Tallest building in Pinellas County in search of a new name

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — The name "Priatek" is gone from Pinellas County's tallest building, perhaps to be replaced by that of a much better-known company new to the Tampa Bay area.

    The Priatek name is off of downtown St. Petersburg's tallest building.
 [LARA CERRI  |   Times.  2015]