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Hernando County Sheriff

Voters will select from three candidates to replace departing Sheriff Tom Mylander.

By JAMIE MALERNEE

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 1, 2000


Two men from the Sheriff's Office and an outsider with years of law enforcement experience are vying for votes in one of Hernando County's most hotly contested races this year.

Democratic candidate Sgt. James "Eddie" McConnell, Republican nominee Maj. Richard Nugent and no-party candidate Michael Robinson all want to be the county's next sheriff. Each says he has the best qualifications, ideas and leadership skills for the job, which is being vacated by Sheriff Tom Mylander after 16 years in office.

Robinson, a former Philadelphia police lieutenant who recently left his job as an investigator for the Florida Department of Veterans Affairs to campaign full time, stresses that he will keep politics out of an agency he says is crippled by infighting and back-stabbing.

"Politics has no place in law enforcement," said Robinson, a registered Democrat. "I will keep it out. (But) with Nugent, you have the same-old, same-old. With McConnell, you'll have the good ol' boys coming back into the office."

Robinson ran for sheriff as a Democrat in 1988 and lost.

Robinson said that, as sheriff, he would improve traffic enforcement and also increase programs to prevent and address juvenile crime. Within the Sheriff's Office, he said, he would ensure that promotions are done fairly and would work to have "99 percent" of the employees enter a civil service program.

Nugent, a high-ranking official with the Sheriff's Office, said residents who believe in the current administration should vote for him. Endorsed by Mylander, Nugent has a master's degree in public administration and says he has the management skills to make sure that his officers have the equipment, salaries and staffing to get the job done right -- while keeping costs under control.

"It's easy to say, "I'm going to come in and save money,' but do you have the experience to do it?" Nugent asked. "I do."

Although Nugent says he will continue the "professional and ethical" running of the department, he said that areas he would target for improvement include traffic enforcement and community outreach. He said he would also continue to pursue state grants to help the office grow along with the area's population.

McConnell, a Hernando native who has worked for the Sheriff's Office for more than two decades, says he is the candidate who truly cares about the community and can be trusted with the county's top law enforcement job. With his background in community services at the Sheriff's Office, McConnell said, he will be a more accessible sheriff whom both average citizens and rank-and-file employees can feel comfortable coming to with problems and solutions.

"I will lead with two hands," McConnell promised, "one on the pulse of the community and one of the pulse of operations."

Although McConnell is a veteran of the department, he said he is not so attached to the current administration that he cannot see the need for change. In fact, McConnell openly accuses Mylander of moving him from the high-profile area of community services to the less visible position of purchasing and fleet management supervisor as part of a political ploy to keep him away from the public during election season.

McConnell says that, if elected, he would ensure that all promotions are fair, and he proposes to institute a career-path program that would allow for advancement within a job title. Such a system, he said, would keep good patrol deputies on the street rather than forcing them to take other jobs in the department to make more money.

THE JOB

The sheriff is the chief law enforcement officer for Hernando County. The Sheriff's Office investigates crime in unincorporated Hernando, helps other agencies during accidents and emergencies, and provides court security. The sheriff serves a four-year term; the base salary for the job will be $107,505.

REPUBLICAN

RICHARD NUGENT, 49, of Spring Hill is a major in the Hernando County Sheriff's Office with 27 years in law enforcement. He has worked for the Sheriff's Office since 1984. Before that, he was a police officer in Romeoville, Ill. He has a bachelor's degree in criminology from Saint Leo University and a master's degree in public administration from Troy State University. He has attended the FBI National Academy. He is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, Spring Hill Rotary, the Hernando Youth Leagues board of directors, the Hernando County Family YMCA board, American Legion Post 186 and the American Heart Association board. Nugent is married and has three sons. ASSETS: home, condo in St. Augustine, cars, stocks, savings account. LIABILITIES: mortgages. SOURCE OF INCOME: Sheriff's Office salary and condo rent.

DEMOCRAT

JAMES "EDDIE" McCONNELL, 47, who lives south of Brooksville, is a sergeant with the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, where he has worked since 1978. He has also worked with the Florida Department of Corrections. He is a lifelong resident of Hernando County. He attended Saint Leo University and is a graduate of several law enforcement training programs in Florida. He is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and president of the Boys and Girls Club of Hernando County. He is past president of the Suncoast Crime Prevention Association. McConnell is married and has four sons. ASSETS: home. LIABILITIES: mortgage, loan. SOURCE OF INCOME: Sheriff's Office salary. E-MAIL: emmcconnell@ mcconnell4sheriff .com. WEB SITE: http://www. mcconnell4sheriff.com.

NO PARTY

MICHAEL ROBINSON, 59, is a former investigator for the Florida Department of Veteran Affairs who left his position of 10 years to campaign full time for sheriff. For 23 years, he was an officer at the Philadelphia Police Department, where he reached the rank of lieutenant. He has lived in Hernando County since 1987 with his wife, County Commissioner Nancy Robinson, and his three children. He attended Temple University in Philadelphia and is a graduate of several law enforcement training programs. He is a member of the Hernando County Irish American Club, AmVets Post 28, the Fraternal Order of Police in Philadelphia and Florida's Police Benevolent Society. ASSETS: home. LIABILITIES: loans, mortgage. SOURCE OF INCOME: police pension, wife's income. E-MAIL: badgeofhonor_2000@yahoo.com

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