Some question residency requirement, others say sheriff should live in Duval County

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams vacated office when he moved to Nassau County, general counsel’s draft opinion says

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams still holds that position until he retires on June 10.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville on Friday was still awaiting word from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about who will be the temporary sheriff of Duval County.

Sheriff Mike Williams still holds that position until he retires on June 10.

The issue is his move from Duval County to Nassau County -- which the general counsel’s draft opinion says means Williams vacated the office. But some are asking why that residency requirement is in place.

“Actual Sheriff must reside in Jax, MAKES NO SENSE,” wrote News4JAX Insider Tow Missile. “Jacksonville will suffer by keeping this part of the city’s charter in place.”

But those we spoke with in downtown Jacksonville on Friday had different views.

Jacksonville resident Scott Pepis thinks the sheriff of Jacksonville should live in Duval County.

“I think to be an ambassador for Jacksonville, you need to be involved with the community as much as possible and part of all this to live in the community,” Pepis said.

Jacksonville resident John Lee agrees.

“I do believe if you serve and protect your neighborhood that you should live in the neighborhood,” Lee said.

Still, another News4JAX Insider, Larry 19, said, “If the Sheriff has to live in Jacksonville, why don’t all other police personnel live there too! Should they not be there to protect their city! Just as he would.”

On Friday, I talked with News4JAX political analyst Rick Mullaney, who used to be the city’s lead attorney, about that rule and asked why the rule applies to the sheriff and not others in the department.

“Typically it’s reserved for elected officials with a thought being you should be living in the county among those people who elected you and understand the county well to serve it,” Mullaney said. “Sometimes that gets expanded to certain appointed officials, but it rarely does it apply to typical employees who are not elected.”

In a statement Thursday, the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police congratulated Williams on his years of service and said it looks forward to working with the new sheriff -- whoever that may be. I wanted to ask the local FOP on Friday if the residency requirement for the sheriff is important, but the president is not commenting.

On Monday, the Jacksonville City Council will hold a special meeting at noon to iron out details for a special election that will take place in August. That’s followed by a general election runoff in November. The winner will finish out Williams’ term, which ends in July 2023.

If things play out, Jacksonville could have four different sheriffs over the next year: Williams, the interim sheriff, the sheriff who wins the special election and then the sheriff who wins the regular election next spring.

I have been reaching out to the sheriff ever since the residency issue came to light. He spoke to us on Monday, but on Friday, he had not returned calls.

It’s important to note that Williams is still the sheriff, and in case no replacement is made until the special election is held, Undersheriff Pat Ivey will lead the department. But, again, no decision has been announced.

Meanwhile, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters, who some in city government say is the frontrunner as a temporary replacement, announced Friday that he is retiring from the Sheriff’s Office and plans to run in the special election.

About the Author:

Jim Piggott is the reporter to count on when it comes to city government and how it will affect the community.