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Sheriff gets going early for re-election

Jeff Dawsy made his 2004 run for a third term as Citrus County sheriff official Tuesday by filing preliminary paperwork with the Supervisor of Elections Office.

Asked what his goals would be for a third term, Dawsy pointed to accomplishments of his agency during the nearly seven years he has been in office.

"We have proven that we are true to our word," Dawsy said.

He said with almost 1,000 graduates, the Citizens' Academy has opened up the Sheriff's Office to the community, giving county residents a close-up view of the agency.

Community policing has helped address youngsters through school programs and returned almost $190,000 to seniors who have been targets of business fraud, he continued.

And the team of Sheriff's Office volunteers has doubled in size and now assists the agency in all its operations.

In addition, Dawsy noted that the Sheriff's Office has received more than $4-million in state and federal grants, has upgraded the dispatch computer system, installed computers in patrol cars and has received state accreditation.

The qualifying deadline isn't for another year, but so far Dawsy, a Democrat, already faces one opponent: Big Mike Eyes, a Hernando Republican.

For a $110,771 annual salary, Dawsy oversees 286 full-time employees,of whom more than half are sworn officers, and an $18-million budget, said sheriff's spokeswoman Gail Tierney. The Sheriff's Office proposed budget for 2003-2004 is $19.6-million.

Dawsy said he plans on meeting with county commissioners to discuss the future of the Sheriff's Office. "I think growth is probably the key," he said.

He said he would address population growth and the agency's manpower, facilities and equipment.

The 47-year-old sheriff, a native of New York, has spent most of his career in Citrus County, where he rose through the ranks. Previously, he worked in the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and in private business.

Dawsy served as the captain of the county's emergency operations center before becoming sheriff in 1996, starting a new era in county law enforcement after state Rep. Charles Dean, R-Inverness, retired from the position. In the 2000 election, Dawsy ran unopposed.

_ Suzannah Gonzales can be reached at 860-7312 or