ABBIE VANSICKLE and JUSTIN GEORGE
TELLTALE CAMPAIGN STYLES: Hank Hemrick says his modest signs and the incumbent's deluge tactic symbolize their differences.
Jeff Dawsy insists he's the right man to continue leading the Citrus County Sheriff's Office for the next four years. Dawsy, a Democrat, is campaigning vigorously for a third term, posting a Web site and large billboards and signs throughout the county that display the slogan: "Dawsy Delivers."
Dawsy's opponents have run more low-key campaigns, and at least one of them says he will maintain a low profile if elected. Dawsy's large signs and plentiful campaign funds enrage his Republican opponent, Hank Hemrick.
Hemrick, in his second run for elected office in Citrus County, says he sees no need for an incumbent to go out of his way to campaign. Hemrick's signs are considerably smaller, a visual symbol of fundamental differences between the two men, said Hemrick, who bills himself as a fiscal conservative.
Dawsy, who moved to Citrus County while in high school, has made a career of law enforcement, working in Pasco and Hernando counties before returning to Citrus County in 1981, where he climbed the ranks in the department before running for sheriff in 1996.
In his time in office, Dawsy has become a well-known figure in the community. He's a frequent guest on local access TV shows. He's an advocate of increasing law enforcement's presence throughout the county by building new substations and opening community resource centers.
Recently, Dawsy took on more responsibility when the Inverness Police Department closed. The Sheriff's Office now patrols the city.
The sheriff's budget, too, has grown under Dawsy's leadership. This year, the proposed budget is $21.7-million, nearly 11 percent more than last year. Dawsy attributes about half of the growth to costs he cannot control.
Increased costs for fuel, health insurance, car insurance, workers' compensation and state retirement benefits contributed to the uncontrollable part of the proposed increase, according to Dawsy.
Hemrick is critical of Dawsy's spending. If elected, Hemrick wants an outside company to audit the Sheriff's Office so he can see exactly where the money is going, he said.
He will not appear out on the street with officers as Dawsy did recently during a June drug sweep in Crystal River's Copeland Park. A sheriff should manage officers, not be on the street, Hemrick said.
Hemrick says his supporters include people within the Sheriff's Office. However, he will not give names of his supporters and is vague when asked why he chose to run for the office.
"It's not as rosy in the Sheriff's Office as people are likely to believe," he said. He declined to give specifics.
Hemrick moved to Citrus County six years ago from New York, where he worked in corrections. He ran unsuccessfully for the Mosquito Control Board in 2002.
The third candidate is "Big" Mike Eyes. Eyes is not affiliated with a political party. He did not return repeated phone calls and did not post any information about his candidacy to the Citrus County Supervisor of Elections Web site.
At an October political forum sponsored by the St. Petersburg Times and the Beverly Hills Civic Association, Hemrick and Dawsy sparred over the way the department should be run. Eyes did not attend the forum.
Hemrick questioned the sheriff on the annually rising budget and said that as a fiscal conservative, he "will bring that back" down. He pledged to cut Crown Victorias from the sheriff's fleet and might cut back the number of substations as well.
Dawsy, however, pointed out that Hemrick didn't even know the right number of substations in the county and criticized Hemrick for lack of experience in law enforcement leadership.
"Have you ever held any command position, major or above?" Dawsy asked.
Hemrick, who was a corrections chief investigative officer, went back at Dawsy by pointing out that he has no women in his office above the rank of corporal.
"That's correct," Dawsy said sharply, allowing a few seconds to pass before adding that some women do hold leadership roles in his administration, though not among sworn officers.
HANK HEMRICK , 59, is a retired Inverness resident who moved to Citrus County six years ago from New York, where he worked as a law enforcement and corrections officer. Hemrick ran unsuccessfully for the Mosquito Control Board in 2002. He has a bachelor's degree in correctional administration and a master's degree in public administration, both from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. Hemrick also served in the Air Force from 1966 to 1970, where he served as an air traffic controller. He was discharged honorably in 1970 with the rank of staff sergeant. Hemrick is married and has no children. ASSETS: home, retirement, securities, stock, 401(k), certificate of deposit, checking account. LIABILITIES: loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: pension, stock dividends, bank interest.
JEFFREY J. DAWSY , 48, is finishing his second term as sheriff. The Long Island, N.Y., native moved to Citrus County in 1973 and graduated from Crystal River High School in 1974. He earned both an associate's degree in 1980 and a bachelor's degree in 1982 from Saint Leo College and a master's in business administration degree from Nova Southeastern University in 1992. Before serving as sheriff, Dawsy came to the Citrus County Sheriff's Office in 1981. He moved up the ranks to become the director of Emergency Management, serving in the department until 1996, when he was elected sheriff. He worked as a deputy sheriff at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office in New Port Richey from 1979 to 1981. Prior to that, Dawsy was a probation supervisor in the Hernando County Probation Office in Brooksville from 1978 to 1979. Dawsy lives in Beverly Hills. He is married and has three children. ASSETS: home and property, retirement plan, credit, savings account, checking account. LIABILITIES: mortgage, loans. SOURCE OF INCOME: elected office . WEB SITE: www.jeffdawsy2004.com
"BIG" MIKE EYES , 62, of Hernando is a candidate for sheriff. He did not fill out a Times candidate information survey and did not return repeated phone calls. ASSETS: home, vehicles. LIABILITIES: mortgage, car loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: Social Security.
The sheriff oversees the Citrus County Sheriff's Office, including public safety issues and emergency management in the county. The sheriff is elected to a four-year term and is paid $115,087 a year.