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White, Thivener head for runoff

Neither candidate won a majority of ballots, but they outdistanced former sheriff Jim Gillum by a wide margin.

By TAMARA LUSH

© St. Petersburg Times, published September 6, 2000


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HUDSON -- Political newcomer Bob White was the top vote-getter in the Republican race for sheriff on Tuesday but he will face Gil Thivener in the Oct. 3 runoff election, because neither candidate received the majority of votes.

The two defeated former sheriff Jim Gillum by a wide margin.

During his victory party at the Italian-American Club in Hudson, White said he was humbled and stunned to win the most votes.

"I'm excited," he said. "There's a lot of people counting on me to win. It's a big responsibility."

Ed Collins, a former county commissioner who frequently tangled with the incumbent sheriff, Democrat Lee Cannon, was at White's party, smiling and wearing a white polo shirt with White's name embroidered on the chest.

"He's the big kahuna," Collins said.

About a mile away at the Sea Pines community center, Thivener said he was disappointed with the vote count. "I certainly felt we would do better," said Thivener.

Thivener raised the most money -- $27,975. He spent $23,239. White raised $24,144, and spent all but $454, according to records from the Supervisor of Elections office. Gillum raised $16,279.

The campaign for the Republican nomination for sheriff was relatively quiet, with only one debate attended by all three candidates.

White, 50, started his law enforcement career with the Sumter County Sheriff's Office. From there, he worked at the Brooksville Police Department, then the Florida Highway Patrol. He was later hired as an agent with the Florida Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco.

White took a break from law enforcement in 1981, when he went to work for a savings and loan in Brooksville. He returned to the Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco in 1987.

White said if elected he would put more deputies on the street, instead of in administrative or special units. He also said he would seek more grants, use computers to map crime patterns and "court the County Commission like a prom queen" to garner support for the agency.

Thivener, 65, was a major in the Pasco Sheriff's Office for eight years until 1985. He also served as police chief in St. Pete Beach and Dania, in Broward County. He spent much of the campaign attacking Cannon for his decisions, especially the agency's response times to calls.

Thivener also said that the agency is top-heavy with administrators and promises to reshuffle staffing and the budget to put more deputies in neighborhoods. Also, Thivener said he will not ask residents to approve special tax districts or other tax increases to pay for law enforcement services.

Gillum, 56, served as sheriff for two terms, from 1984 until 1992. His last term was punctuated by controversies, including the hiring of his then-girlfriend as a legal assistant.

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