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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012 6 years ago

Q & A: Ben Johnson, Volusia County Sheriff

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Ben Johnson is running for Volusia County Sheriff.

BY THE OBSERVER STAFF

1) Please provide a few statistics and explain why they are indicative of the state of the Sheriff’s office today.

The violent crime rate has decreased 51.5% in the Sheriff’s Office’s jurisdiction since I first took office. Overall crime has also decreased by 12.6%, in the same in timeframe.

These are extremely positive statistics that are indicative of well-trained, professional deputies who aggressively and effectively attack crime and enforce the law.

Finally, the number 1, which represents the number of agencies that provide public safety dispatch services in Volusia County. This is a vitally important number for a county that used to have a fragmented dispatch network consisting of more than a dozen communications centers, all operating independently.

There was little coordination among the dispatch centers, making communications inefficient and occasionally hampering response to emergencies. Over the past few years, more and more cities began contracting with the Sheriff’s Office to provide their dispatch services, and the system slowly began to evolve, grow, consolidate and reform.

One of the final steps in the process took place last October, when all police, fire and EMS dispatching for the entire county, and its 16 cities, came under the Sheriff’s Office. This has been a monumental change in Volusia’s public safety communications network that has resulted in a better, quicker and more efficient response system and millions of dollars in savings to the taxpayers.

2) What’s an example that illustrates your ability to perform as a manager?

As Sheriff for the past 12 years, I’ve exercised stewardship over the agency during the biggest economic downturn since the Great Depression. The resulting revenue reductions have necessitated critical scrutiny of the effectiveness, efficiency and costs associated with all programs, services, personnel and equipment needs.

Due to financial necessity, this process has resulted in some difficult decisions. While this hasn’t been easy, being a leader means taking responsibility, establishing priorities, effectively managing resources and making tough -- and sometimes politically unpopular -- decisions.

Through it all, though, we’ve managed to maintain our core law enforcement services, reduce crime and weather the financial storm with targeted cuts and prudent fiscal and personnel management.

Meanwhile, the Sheriff’s Office’s responsibility and jurisdiction have expanded during my tenure through the consolidation of communications services and the assumption of law enforcement duties at Daytona Beach International Airport and the City of Oak Hill. This hasn’t been easy and the accomplishments haven’t been without some pain.

But the accomplishments have been achieved through steady, prudent and effective leadership that I believe clearly demonstrates my administrative and management abilities during these challenging times.

3) Why should people vote for you instead of your opponent?

My combination of education, experience in virtually all aspects of policing and my prior service for 26 and a half years as a Deputy Sheriff -- including supervisory positions and assignments of high responsibility (District Commander, Watch Commander and SWAT Team Entry Leader) -- and then the least 12 years as the elected Sheriff.

Another critical factor is my leadership ability, as demonstrated during my tenure as Sheriff in leading the agency and working effectively with our local, state and federal law enforcement partners, through multi-agency task forces and the Police Chiefs Association, in taking on the lead role in a successful effort to unify the county’s emergency dispatch system and in my selection and service for the past year as President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

Additionally, I’m active in numerous civic endeavors and have been endorsed for re-election by our Deputies through the Volusia Deputies Association.

Finally, I’m the only candidate with the supervisory, administrative, personnel and budget experience necessary to effectively manage an agency of this size. These factors, plus my record of proven results while in office, not only make me the best candidate, but also make me the only qualified candidate in the race.

The following is a synopsis of a follow-up interview in The Observer offices:

Wendell Bradford, the challenger, has been critical of Sheriff Ben Johnson, particularly regarding the data supporting the reduced crime rates.

“I stand by my numbers,” Johnson said. “It is illegal to change those numbers and do them wrong. My credibility has never been challenged except in this election. He doesn’t like the facts, he doesn’t like the figures.”

In addition to the crime rate in Volusia County decreasing, the national crime rate has also dropped. Johnson said the local decrease isn’t solely due to the national trend. He said his department works hard to keep the Volusia crime rate low.

Bradford has also challenged Johnson on his budget management.

“Mr. Bradford does not understand budgets,” Johnson said. “He doesn’t know what he’s talking about. He doesn’t want to know what he’s talking about.”

He said is campaign has relied on credibility, while his opponent has lied.

“Last year I was the president of the Florida Sheriff’s Association, elected [by] other sheriffs,” Johnsonj said. “The Volusia County Sheriff is a leader, he is an administrator. … My opponent has never been anything but a deputy sheriff for 22 years. … He has no management experience. … I know how to run these big issues. He has no experience even running a shift of men … If you will lie to get the job, what’re you going to do once you’re in the job? ... Credibility, leadership, veracity, proven leadership, that’s why the people of Volusia County should vote for me.”

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