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Sheriff Pinellas County

Clash of deputies: The GOP primary features the sheriff's heir apparent and a man who won't let him progress without a fight.

Published August 24, 2004

Few were surprised three years ago when Chief Deputy Jim Coats announced he wanted to be the Pinellas County sheriff. Many public officials have been talking about him as if he already has the job.

But nobody sent the memo to Tim Glassburner, who is facing Coats this month in the Republican primary.

So far, Coats has raised significantly more money than Glassburner, and with more than 30 years of service with the Pinellas Sheriff's Office, Coats has plenty of political support - including a strong endorsement from current Pinellas Sheriff Everett Rice.

Glassburner is a retired sheriff's deputy from Geauga County, Ohio, who now works as a security guard in a gated community with about 700 homes. He has been campaigning nearly as long as Coats and is not prepared to let Rice's handpicked successor walk into the November election without a fight.

Whoever wins will face Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, the well-known Tampa shock jock who announced in July he would run as a Democrat in the race.

Glassburner wants the sheriff to be "hands on."

"You are not going to see me in a suit," Glassburner said. "You will see me in a uniform. I will be out patrolling, at the jail and in the court."

One of his priorities would be to raise the starting salary for deputies.

Rice has worked for the past two years to make deputy salaries more competitive, and as of Oct. 1, the starting salary will be $36,705. That's up from last year, when a study Rice commissioned found that deputies' starting pay of $29,000 was among the lowest in the area for law enforcement.

Glassburner said they deserve more and that he would find it in the sheriff's $225-million budget. If need be, he would ask county commissioners for more money.

"Some of these deputies don't have to be working two or three jobs to support their families," Glassburner said. "Let them work one job, as deputy sheriff. They are on call 24 hours a day, and they put their lives on the line."

Coats said he wouldn't make too many changes. In many ways, he's already helping run the department. He has served as Rice's top deputy for nearly a decade. He oversees the budget, and he has spent the past few years helping to streamline the top brass by reducing the number of majors from seven to three.

One of his priorities would be keeping Pinellas on the cutting edge of technology. He would recommend a centralized records database for all Pinellas law enforcement agencies.

This would be Coats' first time in elected office.

"I just think it's a natural progression because of the experience I have had," Coats said. "Sheriff Rice is obviously going out, and I think we need somebody who has experience with the team to continue where Sheriff Rice left off."

JAMES COATS, 60, was appointed deputy sheriff in 1995. He has been a deputy with the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office since 1971. He was appointed by Gov. Lawton Chiles (D) as interim sheriff of Gulf County (1993-94) and Santa Rosa County (1992). He moved to Pinellas in 1968 and is a member of the board of directors for Boys and Girls Club of Suncoast. He is chairman of the Pinellas County Alliance for Children and Family Services and a member of the executive board of the Sheriff's Police Athletic League. He has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Saint Leo College and an associate's degree in business administration from St. Petersburg College. He is a graduate of the National Aviation Academy and holds a pilot's license. He is married with one son. ASSETS: home, boat, truck, investments, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: chief deputy salary.

TIM GLASSBURNER, 58, is a security supervisor with Fox Protective Services. He was a deputy sheriff in Geauga County, Ohio (about 50,000 people), from 1976-85 and fire chief for the Burton Fire Department (town of about 1,000 in Ohio), from 1979-89. Has been a shelter manager for the Clearwater chapter of the American Red Cross and president of the Williamsdale Square homeowners association. He is a high school graduate and is married with three stepdaughters. ASSETS: home, cars, investments, antique collection, savings. LIABILITIES: mortgage, credit card debt. SOURCE OF INCOME: security supervisor salary.

THE JOB: The sheriff is elected countywide. The constitutional officer provides law enforcement to the county's unincorporated residents and 10 municipalities that contract with the office. He also manages the county jail and provides some services, such as court security, countywide. He oversees a budget of nearly $225-million and 2,800 employees - 893 sworn law enforcement officers and 826 detention deputies. The sheriff serves a four-year term and is paid a salary of $143,081.

[Last modified August 23, 2004, 17:01:23]

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