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New sheriff takes oath, says he'll earn trust

As the saying goes, there's a new sheriff in town.

With three predecessors looking on, David Gee took the oath of office Tuesday, becoming the 37th sheriff of Hillsborough County.

The day also saw the swearing-in of Supervisor of Elections Buddy Johnson, who has served the past two years as a gubernatorial appointee to the post, and returning Public Defender Julianne Holt and Property Appraiser Rob Turner.

Gee, a 27-year veteran of the Sheriff's Office, thanked an overflow crowd after taking his oath. Florida Senate President Tom Lee and outgoing Sheriff Cal Henderson were on hand to salute him.

"You earn the public's respect and trust every day," Gee said. "I'll be doing everything I can to earn yours."

Gee becomes the first new sheriff in Hillsborough County since 1993, when Cal Henderson took office. Also at Tuesday's ceremony were former sheriffs Walter Heinrich and Malcolm Beard.

Gee's daughters, Jennifer and Kara, held the Bible upon which he placed his left hand. Wife Rhonda Gee carried out the tradition of pinning her husband with his sheriff's badge, shaking as she did.

Henderson described his successor as a tireless worker who earned every bit of his ascension to Hillsborough's top law enforcement post.

"He's never done or said anything that would make me upset with him," Henderson said.

The crowd that gathered at the George Edgecomb Courthouse to witness the investiture included Gee's command staff, whom he immediately swore in at the end of the ceremony.

Nearly two dozen judges and about a dozen other elected officials attended, some watching the proceedings from television screens in the hallway. Gee thanked many of them in a receiving line afterward.

Gee described the occasion "as a dream for a kid who grew up in Brandon and wanted to be a deputy since he was 10 years old."

A somewhat smaller crowd attended a separate ceremony Tuesday morning at the courthouse as Chief Judge Manuel Menendez Jr. conducted investitures for Johnson, Holt and Turner. All three are returning to their offices, though it is Johnson's first term after being elected in November.

Johnson credited his staff for what he described as a "nearly flawless presidential election."

The investiture proceedings are not required, but are a ceremonial tradition. Returning Tax Collector Doug Belden and State Attorney Mark Ober opted not to participate.

Newly elected Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank will be sworn in at 5 p.m. Monday at the courthouse, though she officially took office Tuesday.