LAKELAND — Twelve years after he first raised his hand and promised to serve faithfully as Polk County sheriff, Grady Judd says the job means as much now as it did then.
Surrounded by family, friends, and his colleagues in law enforcement, Judd was sworn in Tuesday for his fourth term.
“It is my honor to be sheriff,” said Judd, sworn in by Florida Supreme Court Justice Charles Canady at First Baptist Church at the Mall. “I sincerely mean it as much today as I did the first day I was sworn in.”
Judd, 62, is a Lakeland native who joined the Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher in 1972 shortly after graduating from Lakeland High School.
“To be able to live my dream, serving as a law-enforcement officer for my entire adult life in my home county ... it is truly a blessing,” Judd said.
The sheriff has earned a number of awards and professional recognitions, including a Good Citizenship Medal from the Sons of the American Revolution in 2015 and a National Anti-Bullying Recognition Award from the School Safety Advocacy Council in 2014. He is president of the Major County Sheriffs of America and served on the commission appointed in response to the 2018 Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School shootings.
A Republican, Judd was appointed last month by President Donald Trump to a three-year term on the Coordinating Council on Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. He said at the time he had a question about the length of the appointment with Trump leaving office.
Jay Dennis, lead pastor at the First Baptist Church at the Mall, served as keynote speaker during Judd’s oath of office ceremony Tuesday.
“Grady Judd’s priorities are embedded in everything you will see in here today: faith, family and protecting the community,” Dennis said. “When you leave here today, you’re going to feel very encouraged, very hopeful and very proud.”
The Rev. Arthur Johnson of St. Luke’s Ministries in Lakeland gave an opening prayer during the ceremony. He praised Judd’s personal sacrifice throughout his career, including dinners the sheriff has missed with Marisa Judd, his wife of 44 years.
“Let this commitment never go unnoticed,” Johnson said.
Judd singled out his wife during his remarks after being sworn in.
“Unless you work in this profession, you really don’t understand when we say that we’re never off duty,” Judd said. “Hundreds of times during the course of my career, the phone would ring and on each occasion — before I could reply — Marisa would say to me, ‘Go be with them.’”
Judd was first elected sheriff of Polk County in 2004, and reelected in 2008 and 2012.
In the Nov. 2 general election, Judd received 95 percent of the vote (245,515 votes) while a write-in opponent received 4 percent (12,184 votes), according to the Polk Supervisor of Elections Office.
Looking for real-time news alerts?
Subscribe to our free Breaking News newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Judd is paid $149,402 per year. The salaries of all sheriffs in Florida are established by a state statute based on the population in their jurisdiction.
“It is my strong conviction that God has blessed Polk County because we have a faith-centered, justice-loving, honor-protecting, people-caring sheriff,” Dennis said. “To simply put it, we are just downright proud that Grady Judd is ours.”
Judd vowed to continue doing what he’s been doing in Polk County for more than 40 years.
“I promise to be honest, ethical, and loyal while doing the best I know how,” Judd said.
- John Ceballos