Congratulations to Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri for being named sheriff of the year by the National Sheriffs’ Association. It is well-deserved recognition for a sheriff who is making a positive difference in the county, the state and the nation.
While overheated rhetoric over immigration dominates the political debate in Washington and Tallahassee, Gualtieri worked calmly and quietly to create a workable agreement between federal immigration officials and local sheriffs over a fair process for holding undocumented immigrants under federal authority until immigration officials can pick them up from the county jail.
The Pinellas sheriff also was the ideal choice to chair the state commission investigating last year’s massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The commission has methodically documented systemic failures by both law enforcement and the school district, and it has recommended changes in security and public policy that will benefit schools across the state.
In Pinellas, Gualtieri has extended his reach beyond traditional law enforcement. He was a driving force behind Safe Harbor, the emergency homeless shelter. He also has been a leader in promoting diversion programs and advocating for better mental health services. Another indication of the respect Gualtieri has within Pinellas: The sheriff’s office now provides law enforcement services to 13 of the 24 cities or towns in the county. And the tension between larger police departments such as St. Petersburg’s and the sheriff’s office that created issues in earlier eras has disappeared.
Gualtieri sets an example for other leaders by being readily accessible to the media and to the public, and by holding himself and his department accountable when something goes wrong. When there is bad news, he delivers it himself. His national recognition is good news, and it reflects well on the Pinellas Sheriff’s Office and on the judgment of the voters who have consistently re-elected him.