T.K. Waters sworn in as Jacksonville’s new sheriff during emotion-filled ceremony

Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters nearly moved to tears during swearing in ceremony at Mandarin church. (Copyright 2022 by WJXT News4Jax - All rights reserved.)

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Sheriff-elect T.K. Waters took an oath of office Sunday afternoon, officially becoming the third person to hold the position in Duval County in just five months.

The swearing-in ceremony took place at Bible Believers Baptist Church in Mandarin.

After taking an oath, Waters became emotional as he thanked God and members of the church for helping him overcome hardships and become sheriff.

“I wanted to do this here because this church family...has been through the gamut with me over the last 20 years,” Waters said, fighting back tears. “You’ve seen me from a young man, come in and you’ve watched me grow up.”

“You’ve taken me through the toughest battle of my life, and you walked through it with me,” said Waters, whose son died in 2018. “So, I’ll make this promise to you, my family, my police family, my church family, this community: I won’t let you down, I’ll stand strong. I’ll do what’s necessary to make sure everyone understands and realizes what man I am and what I will do every single day as I work hard to serve this community.”

Waters won a special election to the position earlier this month. Interim-Sheriff Pat Ivey on Thursday announced his plans to retire from the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office at the end of the week. He was appointed after Mike Williams stepped down, retiring last June amid a residency scandal.

Before these three, John Rutherford, Nat Glover and Jim McMillian were the three previous sheriffs to have served Jacksonville. That was between 1986 and 2015 — nearly three decades.

Waters, a Republican, said he’s ready to get started after a compressed summertime election cycle that led to a runoff against Democrat Lakesha Burton.

“I’m very excited. I appreciate the mandate from the voters. It’s amazing,” Waters said. “Overwhelmingly, they they chose me in the primary and then a general. So I have a mandate from them to go forward and do the very best that we can.”

For an interview on This Week in Jacksonville, News4JAX Insiders sent us dozens of questions to ask the incoming sheriff.

Waters said he has a plan to address the continuing violent crime. He said he will start by realigning patrol zones.

“We have to focus heavily on how we’re patrolling our streets,” Waters tells me. “We have to realign our zones. We haven’t done that in very — in many, many years.”

Waters told me the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has to consider the population of Duval and place units in places that make sense logistically. He also acknowledges the department must do more to improve its outreach in the community.

“We have to get closer to our community, work in smaller sections of town ... because in my 10 years in homicide that I spent there, I knew that we can’t solve crimes without our community support and help,” Waters adds. “So we have to grow closer to our community. By doing that, getting closer, working in smaller sections, we can get more accomplished that way.”

Many viewers wanted to know how Waters feels about the issue of drugs in Jacksonville neighborhoods — and I asked if he felt it’s a problem in different areas.

“Yeah, there is. There has been for a while,” Waters said. “And the only way to address it is ways that I just said ... to be in our neighborhoods, patrol our neighborhoods stronger, and then utilize our undercover assets to make sure that we can make those purchases from those individuals that are doing that. That’s part of the process.”

Waters also has a plan for how to address staffing shortages.

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Digital reporter who has lived in Jacksonville for more than 25 years and focuses on important local issues like education and the environment.