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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  • Mary Mead July 3, 2012 at 9:31 am

    My question is, “Which candidate will commit to obeying the Florida State Constitution which dictates that municipalities subject to county taxes cannot be refused the services of the County Offices, including the Escambia County Sheriff, now Sheriff Morgan?” The people of Pensacola pay Escambia County taxes in addition to paying Pensacola City taxes.

    The Florida Constitution does not appear to allow refusal of County services to individuals who are paying for County services. We have been paying County and City taxes on our property downtown for over 14 years but have been denied the services of the County Sheriff (Sheriff McNesby and, now, Sheriff Morgan) in the two situations where City Officials have committed apparent criminal actions against us, one still ongoing, and the Pensacola Police Chief, now Chief Simmons, the Pensacola Mayor, now Mayor Hayward, and the Pensacola City Council members refuse to investigate and stop these apparent criminal actions, mostly felonies.

    Sheriff Morgan’s website says that the Sheriff’s services are for all of Escambia County, from Century to Pensacola Beach but Sheriff Morgan has refused us, and others in the City, these services. He does not exempt the City of Pensacola on his website but does exempt us in reality and in action, or rather lack of action or service.

    As I stated above, his actions are in violation of the Florida Constitution: CONSTITUTION OF THE STATE OF FLORIDA ARTICLE VIII , LOCAL GOVERNMENT, SECTION 1. Counties. …(d) COUNTY OFFICERS.
    There shall be elected by the electors of each county, for terms of four years, a sheriff, a tax collector, a property appraiser, a supervisor of elections, and a clerk of the circuit court; .. (h)
    TAXES; LIMITATION. Property situate within municipalities shall not be subject to taxation for services rendered by the county exclusively for the benefit of the property or residents in unincorporated areas.

    Our business had operated for more than 25 years (including the previous owner) with no complaints from Pensacola Officials, neighbors or customers when we were abruptly closed down, without due process, for having functions on March 19, 2005, the day before Pensacola
    Officials announced that the Maritime Park would be built at the end of our street. We have been illegally closed down for over 7 years with no income from our investment business property but the expenses continue: mortgage payments, property taxes (@ $6,000.00 a year),
    including county taxes, insurance, etc. We were authorized by City Officials in May, 2000, and again in January, 2001, to operate an art/gallery, antique shop holding functions.

    PENSACOLA CITY COUNCIL MINUTES (online at under minutes)
    Date 01/11/2001
    Type Regular Minutes
    AMENDMENT) and Paragraph 5 (HISTORIC TAX EXEMPTION REQUEST – 520 NORTH SPRING STREET) – both were approved.

    PENSACOLA CITY COUNCIL FILES (online at under council files)
    Date 01/11/2001
    NORTH SPRING STREET Page 2 of the memo, dated January 8, 2001, from Jennifer Fleming to Thomas J. Bonfield (City Manager) states that the proposed use (which was approved) was
    for an art gallery, antiques, crafts and functions.

    Date 01/25/2001 and again on 02/08/2001
    Document type Report of Council Action
    Ordinance Number #5-01

    City Officials appear to be committing grand theft against persons 65 of age or older, appear to be committing extortion as they will charge us with a crime if we operate as we are legally authorized and appear to be committing conspiracy to commit these felonies as they support and defend each other, including Mayor Hayward, in violation of the legal authorization we officially received. These actions violate Florida State laws and violate our United States Constitutional rights which is especially egregious since both my late husband and I are veterans and served to protect and defend the United States Constitution. Sheriff Morgan refuses to stop these apparent crimes against us even though we pay taxes to Escambia County for County services on this property.

    My late husband and I had counted on the income from our business to supplement our retirement. Also, our granddaughter is a gifted, dedicated artist who has been accepted to the Savannah College of Art Design, SCAD, (very expensive at $43,000.00 a year). Her mother, our daughter, is a local school teacher (Brown Barge) and can barely survive as it is. Since we are illegally prohibited from operating as we were legally authorized, we can’t offer her works for sale at our art gallery to help with her tuition. Under the jurisdiction of Sheriff Morgan, I, an elderly widowed grandmother who is a veteran, am prevented from using our business property as legally authorized.

  • Citizen July 3, 2012 at 9:11 am

    Rick, very well written article. I like to see when it’s based on facts and not the writers personal opinion. I’m sure both candidates are thankful.