Two candidates are squaring off in the Alachua County Sheriff’s race. Both have different views for the sheriff’s office but say their experience will help them do the job well.
Current sheriff and Democratic candidate Sadie Darnell has been in office since 2006 after working 30 years at the Gainesville Police Department. She said her previous experience will help her continue current and future initiatives if she’s elected for another term.
“I enjoy what I’m doing, and I’ve got a number of projects, programs and things I want to take care of,” Darnell said. “I’ve run out of time….I believe that my remaining reelected as sheriff will continue the stability and the forward progress of the agency. I’m not ready to retire, so that’s the reason I want to put it out to the voters, and hopefully I will be reelected.”
Her opponent, non-party affiliated John Annarumma, also has law enforcement experience. He’s worked with several agencies, including the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, totaling 14 years of experience.
While Darnell wants to move forward with the goals she has for the sheriff’s office, Annarumma has a different plan. As someone who already works for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, Annarumma said he knows some specific areas that need changes.
“When you’re working for somebody, and from the inside looking out, you see a lot of areas that there’s a lot of deficiencies, a lot of overspending, a lot of favoritism going on, a lot of unfair disciplinary practices…” he said. “Things can get done at a cheaper price.”
One issue that both candidates want to address is the office’s budget.
Darnell said she’s had to adjust the budget because of a declining economy in past years, but costs continue to rise. The weak economy has also made her review the budget to make sure the office is being cost efficient, she said.
But Annarumma said the current administration is spending money on things that aren’t necessary to conduct business.
“Every year we watch the current administration go to the county commission and ask for more money, and then every year we see them spending it on toys we don’t need, changes in uniforms, adding new positions that have nothing to do with law enforcement,” he said.
Another issue that has been at the front of debate in the race for the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office is overcrowding at the county jail.
Darnell said the jail is nearly filled to capacity, but instead of expanding it, she said there are other ways to reduce the number of people behind bars.
Annarumma also sees the county jail as a top issue and said there aren’t enough employees at the jail to accommodate the growing number of inmates.
Along with the jail, the crime rate in Alachua County has been a key issue in the race. Annarumma is critical that the current staff of the sheriff’s office hasn’t made reducing the crime rate a priority.
“I don’t think they’ve done anything to reduce crime,” he said. “Actually, last year in 2011, the population of Alachua County dropped 8 percent, but crime went up….They take resources from those areas, and they put them into other things that we simply don’t need.”
But Darnell said they’ve reduced the crime rate despite a poor economic environment for the past few years.
“I rarely will take credit for the reduction of a crime rate because if it goes up I have to take responsibility for it,” she said. “The crime rate has curiously been down for the past several years. Typically, what we have seen in the past is that when there’s an economic downturn that people become more desperate for money because of job layoffs and things like that….We haven’t seen that, and we’re not sure why.”
Both candidates said they hope their two different visions, one of continuing the goals set out for the sheriff’s office by Darnell, and one of redirecting priorities by Annarumma, will give voters a clear choice on Nov. 6.
Hana Engroff wrote this story online.