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Another hopeful joins sheriff's race

A veteran law enforcement officer will vie against fellow Republicans for a place on the November ballot.

Bob White has never run for elected office, but that didn't stop him from announcing his candidacy for Pasco County Sheriff on Monday.

"I can't say that I've groomed myself for politics over the past 22 years," said White, a sergeant for the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco in Clearwater. "The unknown is not necessarily a bad thing in this case."

White's opponents are well-known in Pasco County.

During the Sept. 5 primary election, White will face fellow Republican Gil Thivener, who made unsuccessful attempts for the sheriff's job in 1984 and 1996. Earlier last month, former sheriff Jim Gillum, also a Republican, said he is mulling a run for re-election.

Whoever wins that primary will face the incumbent sheriff, Democrat Lee Cannon, during the general election Nov. 7. Cannon is running for a third term.

A former Pasco County Sheriff's detective, Oonagh Guenkel, is running in the general election as an Independent.

White, who is 49 and lives in New Port Richey with his wife, Diane, started his law enforcement career in 1972, when he worked for the Brooksville Police Department.

From there, he had a brief stint as a deputy for the Sumter County Sheriff's Office then worked for four years as a trooper with the Florida Highway Patrol.

In 1977, White became a special agent in the Tampa office of the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, where he worked undercover vice crime investigations, interstate smuggling and tax evasion cases.

Four years later, White took a job as a bank manager with First Federal Savings and Loan in Brooksville. He worked there until 1987 then went back to the state alcohol and tobacco agency.

As a sergeant, he supervises seven people. If elected sheriff, White admits that it will be challenging to run an 850-person department with a $47.5-million dollar budget.

"The sheriff has to have good people, accountable and responsible," White said. "You need to put experts on tap and leaders on top."

During an interview Monday, White shied away from criticizing Cannon or his decisions, saying he needs to focus on the primary.

He also didn't outline how his campaign themes _ beefing up the patrol force, improving response times _ differed from Cannon's.

When asked what his specific goals were if elected sheriff, White said he would "realign" the department's resources to put more deputies on the road.

More deputies, he said, would allow the department to answer calls for service faster. It also would allow the department to take a preventive approach to fighting crime, thus lowering the crime rate, he said.

The most important thing, White said, is when a citizen dials 911, "something good happens."

White also said that he wants to improve morale at the sheriff's department, in addition to bringing a "new vision and focus" to the job.

"If the people elect me to be their sheriff, then I will serve them with a capitol S," he said.

_ Staff writer Tamara Lush is the police reporter in Pasco County. She can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6245 or (800) 333-7505, ext. 6245. Her e-mail address is lushsptimes.com.

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