CLAY COUNTY, Fla. – In order to give her a head start leading the agency, Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday appointed former Atlantic Beach Police Chief Michelle Cook as the next Clay County Sheriff.
Cook, who won the Republican primary in August, was not going to face any challengers in the general election in November after a write-in candidate dropped out last month.
“It’s an honor for me as governor to appoint somebody who was elected anyways but gets a head start on this term. And so finishing out 2020 strong for the people of Clay County,” DeSantis said. “I think that the morale is going to be very high here very soon.”
Cook will replace embattled former sheriff Darryl Daniels and, due to election outcomes, become the only female sheriff in Florida early next year.
DeSantis had appointed Special Agent Matt Walsh of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as interim sheriff after suspending Daniels.
“I want to personally thank interim Sheriff Matt Walsh, for your leadership over the past few weeks,” Cook said. “Your demeanor your professionalism were exactly what this agency needed during this crisis and so thank you for your leadership and your guidance over the past couple of weeks.”
Early voting had already started when the state investigation into Daniels was made public five days before the election.
Following his election night loss, Daniels sent News4Jax a statement which read in part: “These politically motivated charges that have been made against Sheriff Daniels and announced right before the election combined with dirty politics from other campaigns.”
News4Jax asked DeSantis about his decision to remove Daniels from office right before an election. Desantis said there was no political motivation and he had a good prior relationship with Daniels.
“Nothing to do with the election,” DeSantis said. “Obviously I had to take action when there were charges, but there was never any that I was aware of timing that I was aware of. As you said, it was a year-long thing, we knew something may happen. I reserved judgment because initially, I didn’t know how things would play out.”
Cook worked to reassure Clay County citizens that they can trust her as the new sheriff.
“I have spent 28 years in law enforcement and have worked every day to do things right and to do things better and I’ll just continue that service here,” she said. “I think in general, the citizens of Clay County trust the Clay County Sheriff’s Office and again, that’s not because of me, it’s not because of any Sheriff, it’s literally because of the work they do every single day and for me it’s just about building upon that trust.”
Cook also encouraged other young girls who want to become officers to follow their dreams.
“I think you know what I’d like to say to the little girls out there is, you can grow up to be a police officer, it’s doable it’s definitely something that is an honorable profession and if you want to serve your community,” Cook said. “There is no better way to serve your community then boots on the ground serving as a law enforcement officer.”
Cook said she reviewed the budget on Tuesday and will review one of Daniels’ priorities — increasing the number of deputies on the street.
Cook assured Clay County residents they will be safe.