Aside from providing law enforcement across a county with 1.4 million people, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office runs the county jail, provides security for the local courts and conducts child protective investigations. With about 3,500 employees, the office is the 12th largest county law enforcement agency in the United States. The sheriff is elected to a four-year term and paid $179,408 per year. The general election is Nov. 3.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister has begun making his mark since winning a special election in 2018. Though he’s made a few mistakes, Chronister is a thoughtful, professional law enforcement officer who is moving the agency in the right direction.
Chronister, 52, joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1992, moving through the ranks to become his predecessor’s hand-picked favorite for the job. He has a firm understanding of the agency and the growing county it serves, and he has fast become a reasoned, public voice as law enforcement in Tampa Bay and across the country deal with calls for reform in the treatment of Black Americans.
Chronister’s interpretation of a state privacy protection for crime victims is overly broad, thereby depriving the public of information that has historically been provided in Florida. And he resisted a mask requirement while serving on the county’s emergency board that helped manage the coronavirus pandemic. Still, Chronister has had his successes. The sheriff has focused on preventative programs to give offenders an opportunity to ably reenter society. His community outreach efforts have improved the agency’s standing with minority groups, which has helped foster a dialogue on implicit racial bias and bridged the local divide between law enforcement and protesters. Chronister changed his mind on the value of deploying body worn cameras, which reflects his deliberative nature and sense of accountability. And he has been a helpful, leading proponent of education and drug treatment programs to help lower-level offenders break the cycle of addiction. These steps have made the community and his own deputies safer.
Chronister won the Republican primary in August, and now faces Democrat Gary Pruitt and no-party candidate Ron McMullen in the general election on Nov. 3. Both are retired Tampa police officers with a quarter-century or more of professional experience. They have not offered, though, any compelling reason for a change in leadership.
Though the sheriff is elected in a partisan race, Chronister rightly views his duties in nonpartisan terms, and he enjoys broad political support across the partisan aisle. He is active and visible in the community, especially with youth groups, and his even, approachable demeanor shows respect for the awesome powers of his office. The Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board recommends Republican Chad Chronister for Hillsborough County Sheriff.
Candidate replies: Candidates not recommended by the editorial board are offered an opportunity to reply. Sheriff candidates may send replies of up to 150 words by 5 p.m. Oct. 9 to Editor of Editorials Graham Brink at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Times Chairman and CEO Paul Tash, Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, and editorial writers Elizabeth Djinis, John Hill and Jim Verhulst. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news