Gordon Smith is running for his third term as Bradford County Sheriff against challenger John Hodges, who did not return requests for an interview for this election preview.
Smith previously served two terms as the City of Starke Police Chief. He said he is a member of the First Baptist Church of Starke, regularly gives to charities like Boy Scouts of America, Rotary Club and the Florida Sheriff Youth Ranch. Through living in Bradford County most of his life and after 30 years in law enforcement, he believes it is a county that should be emulated.
“I love my job,” he said. “I love what I do, I love serving the community of Bradford County.”
He said he believes Bradford County is a safe place to work and live because of the local law enforcement.
“You don’t have to live in a gated community to feel safe in Bradford County,” he said. “In Bradford County, the only gated communities we have are called jails.”
Smith said the biggest issue in the county is its economy. He thinks that with more job opportunities and providing a living wage, officials can limit crime in the county.
He said his officers are present in the community and crime is taken seriously and dealt with swiftly as needed. Bradford County, he said, has one of the lowest crime rates per capita in the state.
“Criminalistics 101 says that being present in an area is the number one crime deterrent,” he said.
He said he is a constitutionalist and believes that the founding fathers created a document that works. When considering modern day advances in firearms and technology, he said that laws have been adjusted.
He does believe in the decriminalization of marijuana in small amounts.
“Let’s give them a citation or a fine,” he said. “Let’s give them that one opportunity. ‘Cause thank God for second chances or I wouldn’t be the sheriff. I was fortunate to grow up in a community that gave me a second chance.”
Smith was arrested as a juvenile for writing his name on a water tower with neon paint, he said.
He said he’s never had allegations of racial profiling or police brutality in Bradford County and that most racial issues come from areas with appointed officials like Ferguson, Chicago, and Baltimore; that’s why he is proud to be a sheriff elected by the people of Bradford County.
He said if allegations of police aggression do come up that it should be investigated thoroughly, following through with the correct discipline for officers involved.
“There is never an excusable reason for using excessive force,” he said.
He said that violence will become limited when members of the community are aware of what officers are doing on a daily basis.
For that reason, he Smith said that the sheriff’s office is working hard at being more present on social media. He said that by 2020 he wants to be the face for law enforcement across the country.
“No one’s going to love Bradford County more than me,” Smith said. “No one’s going to work harder. No one’s going to pray harder and no one is going to love Bradford County more than Gordon Smith.”
This story is part of our guide, Florida Votes 2016, leading up to the Nov. 8 election.Check your voter registration status here.