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Clay County Sheriff Beseler won't seek re-election

Sheriff Rick Beseler
Sheriff Rick Beseler

Clay County Sheriff Rick Beseler announces he will not run for a fourth term and will retire in January 2017 after 12 years as Clay County's top cop and 42 years in law enforcement.

"Everything is as good as it can be, and that's when you really want to leave. Leave it when it's better than when you got here," Beseler said after announcing his decision to his staff Tuesday morning. "It was a tough moment;, it was a hard thing to say, but ... I know it's the right thing to do."

Beseler was first elected sheriff in August 2004, reelected in August 2008 and again in August 2012, garnering over 82 percent of the vote that year. Beseler's retirement marks the first time in 52 years that a Clay County sheriff has retired from office undefeated.

UNCUT:  Interview with Sheriff Rick Beseler

Beseler began his law enforcement career on July 21, 1973, with the Green Cove Springs Police Department. In 1978 he joined the 4th Circuit  State Attorney's Office and rose through the ranks to become cief investigator in 1993. Ten years later, in 2003, with 30 years of service, Beseler retired to run for Clay County sheriff.

During those years he earned a bachelor's degree in criminology from Florida State University and a master's degree in criminal justice management from the University of North Florida. He also graduated from the 141st Session of the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia.

Under Beseler's leadership the Clay County Sheriff's Office was able continue to provide the same level of service even during lean budget years through the Volunteers in Police Service program. More than 250 volunteers work weekly at jobs in every division of the agency, alongside their paid counterparts, providing quality service to the public at no cost.

He created several other units and initiative to meet the changing challenges in law enforcement. The Special Victims Unit, Cybercrimes Unit, Robbery/Homicide Section, Financial Crimes Section, and Street Crimes Unit, focused on the ever-evolving nature of crime.

Asked about his future, Beseler said he had no specific plans, but lots of interests.

"I'm a farmer," Beseler said. "I have timberland and we're eventually talking about doing some cattle ranching. There's a lot of things that will keep me busy out there."

Beseler said one of the toughest challenges was meeting the needs of a growing county on declining resources. The financial crisis in our country caused budget cuts during Beseler's terms which, this year, left his budget operating with a half million less dollars than his budget included eight years ago. Despite those years of staff reductions and reductions in operating expenses, the crime rate remains one of the lowest in North Florida and the crime clearance rate held steady at over twice the states average.

"Serving as sheriff of Clay County was a high honor and privilege and I appreciate the opportunity the citizens of Clay County gave me, and I also appreciate the hard work and support of my dedicated staff, whom I will miss greatly," Beseler said.

Asked if he had advise for whoever becomes the next sheriff to be successful, Beseler said, "It's very simple."

"I say it to every new employee that comes in: 'If you conduct yourself ethically, with integrity, do the right thing for the right reason, everyday even if no one is watching, you will build a reputation that will allow you to hold a position of trust."