Clay County sheriff-elect, likely next sheriff in St. Johns outline agendas

Michelle Cook in Clay County and Rob Hardwick in St. Johns County face only write-in candidates in November

The morning after Republicans were elected to succeed St. Johns County Sheriff David Shoar and the Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels, both winners are already outlining their policing agendas.

The morning after Michelle Cook defeated incumbent Darryl Daniels to win the Clay County GOP primary, the write-in candidate that kept Democrats and NPA voters from casting ballots withdrew from the races. Rob Hardwick, who easily won the seat Sheriff David Shoar is vacating in St. Johns County still facing a write-in candidate in November.

Cook, a Clay County native, brings decades of experience as a Jacksonville police officer and Atlantic Beach police chief to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. She defeated Daniels -- who was plagued by scandal leading up to the election and suspended five days before the primary -- and four other Republican candidates.

Cook said from the moment she pins on the badge, she wants to rebuild trust in the department.

“Transparency is just the way you need to operate,” Cook said. “The community has a right to know what’s going on in the law enforcement department that serves them and for me, I am an open book. That’s how you earn trust. And transparency is just an everyday philosophy.”

She said she wants to focus on making Clay County a place where families want to live and businesses want to invest.

Hardwick has been part of law enforcement for 25 years, most recently serving as the St. Augustine Beach Police Chief. He is set to succeed take over when Shoar retires after 16 years as sheriff.

Hardwick said he wants it to be a smooth transition.

“Just putting my footprint in the sheriff’s office and getting out there and leading by example (is my priority),” Hardwick said. “I never thought we’d be here today talking about COVID-19 and civil unrest. ... As long as we can work together, there is nothing St. Johns County can’t handle together.”

Hardwick said he wants to hire more deputies and add more technology as well as grow the department’s bond with the community.

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