Jacksonville sheriff candidates react to Mike Williams’ sudden retirement

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams on Thursday announced his sudden retirement amid controversy about a recent move from Duval to Nassau County. Meantime, six people had previously announced their intentions to run for sheriff in spring 2023 during the general election, which follows the special elections later this year.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams had about one year left in his term before he announced his sudden retirement Thursday amid questions over his residency.

Now, with Willams set to step down next week, there will be a new top cop in Jacksonville, first through an appointment by Gov. Ron DeSantis and possibly again following a special election later this year. That will be followed by a general election in 2023.

Right now, there are six candidates who are running in the 2023 election, and now they may have to gear up for a special election in just a couple of months.

News4JAX reached out to all of them Thursday following the news of Williams’ retirement. Some are saying the sheriff stepping down was the right move and they’re preparing for an August special election. Others said all the candidates’ proof of residency needs to be scrutinized after the Williams controversy.

Five of the candidates responded directly to messages while Republican and current Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chief of Investigations and Homeland Security T.K. Waters told News4JAX, “I have no comment.”

Later in the day, News4JAX received a statement from Waters’ campaign: “He’s not going to inject himself into the politics right now. He has a very serious job that he’s focused on. If there’s a special election that’ll be a different story and you can talk to him all you want.”

Democrat and retired JSO Assistant Chief Lakesha Burton issued a statement: “Sheriff Williams has had a tremendous career of service. I respect his decision to retire and I wish him and his family the best. My focus remains on the reason I decided to run to be your next sheriff – the urgent need for change in Jacksonville. The sooner that change begins, the better.

“It’s time for a new approach to leading the men and women of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, time to build stronger relationships between JSO and the community so we can fight violent crime together. I’m ready to be the sheriff that Jacksonville deserves, ready to lead our city — Forward Together — toward the better day we all so badly want.”

Dr. Tony Cummings, also a Democrat, responded with a statement that reads: “The departure of Sheriff Mike Williams begins a new chapter for our city. We have lost far too many lives to senseless gun violence over the past 7-years, and that has to change. And while I wish Sheriff Williams the best in his retirement, I pray that our city can recover from the damage caused by his, seemingly, selfish decision to vacate his office prematurely in violation of the city’s charter. This will never become an issue for the citizens of this great community should I become your next elected sheriff.”

Another Democrat running for sheriff in 2023, Ken Jefferson, was asked about who DeSantis should appoint as interim.

“I do not think a current candidate should be appointed because that muddies the waters,” Jefferson said. “That plays on the intelligence of the voters.”

News4JAX also reached out to Democratic candidate Wayne Clark and he said all candidates should be scrutinized on where they’ve lived.

“I’m born and raised in Duval County. I’ve lived my whole life in Duval County,” Clark said.

News4JAX also reached out to candidate Mat Nemeth, a Republican.

“I want to join others in thanking outgoing Sheriff Mike Williams for his long and storied career in service to JSO and the people of Jacksonville. Best wishes on his retirement,” Nemeth said.

To get on a special election ballot candidates will have to pay a fee which is half a percent of the sheriff’s salary or get signatures on a petition which is a less likely option with only a few weeks to file.

About the Author:

Scott is a multi-Emmy Award Winning Anchor and Reporter, who also hosts the “Going Ringside With The Local Station” Podcast. Scott has been a journalist for 25 years, covering stories including six presidential elections, multiple space shuttle launches and dozens of high-profile murder trials.