Escambia County Politics

Sheriff’s Race Primer

July 2, 2012

There are two candidates—and a write-in—vying for the Escambia County Sheriff’s seat. In the August 14 primary, incumbent David Morgan will face challenger John Russell Powell; both are Republican. The winner of the August primary will face write-in candidate Mindy Lynn Pare in November.

Recently, the sheriff candidates heading toward the August primary took a few minutes to discuss the race and the office they’re aiming for.

-David Morgan, incumbent

The way he views it, there isn’t much of a choice. He has to seek re-election as the Escambia County Sheriff.

“This is actually a fulfillment of another campaign promise,” said Sheriff David Morgan recently.

During his first run for the sheriff’s office, Morgan said he assured supporters he’d go for two terms. Now he’s making good on the commitment.

“We knew the things that needed improving with the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office would take at least six to eight years.”

Since taking office, Morgan lists among his accomplishments: the implementation of a merit-based promotional system; the targeting of high-crime areas; and allowing civil-rights organizations greater access to county jails.

The sheriff also feels he has increased morale among his employees. He says he has brought a greater sense of pride to the office.

“You’ll have people—our deputies—tell people they’re proud to work at the Escambia County Sheriff’ Office,” Morgan said.

Morgan was elected in 2008. Prior to that he spent the past three decades working in various aspects of law enforcement, beginning as a patrolman in the U.S. Air Force. The sheriff also holds a Bachelors of Science in Criminal Justice from Southeast Missouri University, as well as a Master’s in Business Administration from Webster University.

The sheriff describes his term as “forward leaning.” His campaign signs urge voters to “keep the momentum.”

Though he notes a spike in the homicide rate in 2010, Morgan feels the sheriff’s office has made headway over the past few years. The community, he believes, is better off under his leadership.

“Escambia County is a safer place now,” Morgan said.

The sheriff also said he gives citizens some of the credit for successes of the last few years. He thinks the community has embraced his “vision.”

“We’ve had a tremendous amount of community buy-in of vision,” Morgan said. “—it’s the communities that have stepped up.”

for more on Morgan, visit the candidate’s website.

-John Powell, challenger

On a hot June day, John Russell Powell stepped into the air-conditioned chill of a Palafox Street restaurant. His election campaign was heating up along with the summer temperatures.

“We shifted into high gear,” the candidate said.

Powell is seeking the office of the Escambia County Sheriff. Driving towards the August primary, the candidate is spending his time on the campaign circuit.

“Getting out and talking to people,” Powell said. “I like that a lot.”

What the candidate would also like is the opportunity to head up the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office. The law-enforcement professional views it as a natural progression in his career.

“I grew up around it all my life,” Powell said. “Wanting to be sheriff of my hometown—it’s something I’ve wanted to do all my life.”

Powell grew up in Pensacola—where his father served as a policeman—graduating from Woodham High School in 1982. Beginning his career with the ECSO, he became a Certified Law Enforcement Officer in 1984.

The candidate also had a stint as a special agent with the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as serving as the chief of police for Hartsville, SC, Wilson, NC and Dothan, Ala., respectively.

Citing a desire to return to Pensacola, Powell ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in Escambia County in 2004. After the loss, he went to work as the chief of police for the city of Dothan through 2009.

Powell said he views the responsibilities of a sheriff as having a broad effect. While the office is primarily charged with enforcing laws, he also thinks the office’s success or failures have a deeper impact on a community.

“If it’s not a safe community, businesses are not going to relocate here,” the candidate said. “—that’s what it’s all about, trying to make the community a safer place.”

For more information on Powell, visit the candidate’s website.

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