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Clay County sheriff

Clay County Sheriff's Office building
Clay County Sheriff's Office building (WJXT)

One-term Clay County Sheriff Darryl Daniels has drawn five opponents in the August Republican Primary: Ben Carroll, Michelle Cook, Harold Rutledge, Mike Taylor and Catherine Webb are all Republicans.

There are no Democrats in the races, but because there is a qualified write-in the race, the primary remains closed to Republican voters with the winner advancing to the general election with no other names on the ballot.

Scroll down to read each candidate’s responses to News4Jax’s questionnaire, presented verbatim as submitted.

  REPUBLICAN CANDIDATES

Ben Carroll

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 60

Candidate’s family: Yes

Occupation: Retired Clay County Sheriff’s Office, Director of Ground Operations Development (Tactical Training Company)

Education: Master’s Public Administration

Political experience: None - Evil can only triumph when Good does nothing.

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  • Fiscal Responsibility and Oversight
  • Employee Recruitment, Training, and Retention
  • Growth and Crime

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

Experience, Leadership, Knowledge, Integrity, Restoration, & Character. These are the values I stand on. I am retired from the Clay County Sheriff's Office. I have more experience than all the other candidates with 40 years of Law Enforcement. I came to serve the man and women of the agency, NOT to be served. I will expect the employees of CCSO to serve the public in the manner in which I serve them.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

Installing the Command & Career Track of Advancement; Establishing a “Fair & Consistent” Discipline policy with county oversight; Establishing alternative funding solutions to Clay County to significantly lower the reliance on the Ad Valorem tax and diversify our revenue streams.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

By not looking a the color of a person's skin, but the character of their heart.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

COVID-19 is only a problem until a vaccine is developed. The real issue according to medical professionals on the front-lines is not keeping people from getting the virus, but slowing its transmission rates, so as not to overload our medical capabilities. Until the development of the vaccine, stay the course as outlined by the medical community. Once that is accomplished, life will return to normal.

Campaign website: CarrollforSheriff.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook


Michelle Cook

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 51

Candidate’s family: Husband Don and 4 kids

Occupation: Police Officer

Education: Masters Degree in Criminal Justice from UNF

Political experience: First time seeking office

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  1. Growth, which is a good thing. But with growth comes more traffic, people and potentially crime. As Sheriff, I will be nimble with my resources and have positive and collaborative relationships with other elected officials to ensure the Sheriff’s Office has the resources necessary to keep up with the expected demand.
  2. Financial constraints are likely to impact the budget due to recent local and national events. I will need to be creative and flexible with the allocation resources. For example, I will expand the use of the Auxiliary Officer Program, which uses fully certified deputies on a part-time basis at a fraction of the cost of a full-time deputy. I will conduct a top-down review of the CCSO organization to ensure that positions and processes are streamlined and efficient without sacrificing service. I will also initiate a detailed audit/review of how money is being used and how to cut low priority spending. The budget of the CCSO belongs to the people of Clay County—how money is spent must be done with the best interest of the community in mind.
  3. Drugs and the impact of drugs on families. As the former Commanding Officer of a Narcotics and Vice Division, I understand how competent drug investigations are run and how investigations must work back to suppliers. The Sheriff must assure that dealing drugs in Clay County is as difficult as possible. Sheriff must lead the effort to partner with community organizations that strive to help users break the cycle. It does no good if all the CCSO is doing is arresting the same street-level users over and over again.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

I am a 28-year law enforcement veteran. I worked some of the toughest streets around. I worked for four different Sheriffs and have learned from each of them. I have tools and strategies to address crime and the fear of crime. I have led over 1000 deputies and had operational control of a budget of more than $100 million dollars. I have served as the Chief of Police and carried the responsibility of directing an efficient and effective policing agency. Under my leadership, the City of Atlantic Beach was named the "Safest City in NE, Florida." I have the integrity, experience, and leadership to lead the Clay County Sheriff's Office.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

I would like to be remembered as being a Sheriff everyone in the community was proud of.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

I would establish real two-way communication between our Sheriff's Office and our community. I would work with community leaders and criminal justice experts to ensure that justice is fair and transparent. I would ensure that deputies received on-going, meaningful training and I would lead by example.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

Our men and women are on the front line in the community. They are being put in harm's way every single day. We must be very proactive in keeping them safe. They must be provided the appropriate protection gear and regular screening by health care officials.

Campaign website: votemichellecook.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook | Instagram


Darryl Daniels

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 55

Candidate’s family: Married since 1983, father and grandfather

Occupation: Sheriff of Clay County

Education: AS Criminal Justice Administration, BS Interdisciplinary Studies, and MA in Religion. FBI National Academy

Political experience: Currently the Sheriff - I am a conservative Republican

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

As the incumbent sheriff, I have the luxury of having access to information that no other candidate would have the knowledge of. The top three issues in the race are that several of the candidates do not live in the county as I have for almost 30 years and do not understand the culture of the county and what the community feels is important to them. In addition, the sheriff's office has to be able to grow in staffing as well as technologically as the population of the county explodes while maintaining fiscal responsibility as not to overburden the taxpayers. In closing, the remaining issue is the need to continue the momentum that CCSO has with the citizens and other stakeholders, which would stop if the current administration is dissolved.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

In today's challenging times, we cannot afford to have a sheriff who needs on the job training. I have a proven track record of keeping our county safe and am the only person in my race experienced in jail operations as well as inmate medical oversight, which are high liability areas for most sheriff's offices. I am the only sheriff in the history of Clay County who has marketed the sheriff's office in a manner that instilled community pride in the agency. This was accomplished by starting the "3 Big Gulps" movement where criminals are warned that the sheriff would drink coffee in their living room as they got arrested; the "You Got Options" hashtag that is posted on every piece of plywood used to secure the residences of drug dealers subsequent to CCSO serving search warrants to rid our communities of illegal narcotics activity; the Sheriff's Blend Coffee initiative where, for a limited time, the sheriff's office partnered with a local coffeehouse to create a coffee blend to be publicly sold and a percentage of each sale was donated to the Clay Police Athletic League; in addition, CCSO campaign hats were discontinued as the uniform hat and were replaced with cowboy hats, that were less than half of the cost of the original uniform hats; and lastly, because of our relationships with the local and national media partners, CCSO is regularly in the media spotlight and solicited for input regarding high profile issues experienced across both the local region and the nation.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

For being fair and keeping our county safe during the tumultuous times experienced during hurricane Irma, the COVID-19 Pandemic and through national civil unrest. My goal is to be a great sheriff of a great agency. I strive to leave a legacy that I NEVER settled for mediocrity as we kept our residents safe and that I courageously stood in the gap between lawlessness and civility.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

As the incumbent sheriff who is a minority, I have focused CCSO resources in a manner that aggressively addresses crime and the need for community engagement. Since taking office, crime rates have repeatedly fallen over the years and I will continue to work to ensure that crime reduction continues to occur. Because of our successes in community engagement, the CCSO community engagement model has been requested by and shared with other law enforcement agencies across the country. I facilitated the "Talking For a Change" initiative where citizens were asked to identify social problems and to offer solutions that will be shared with the National Sheriff's Association, Florida Sheriff's Association, as well as the Director of Intergovernmental Affairs at the White House. We will continue to maintain open dialog with the community that we are committed to serving as we walk together towards recalibrating social norms and law enforcement reform while courageously mending the divide between law enforcement and the community.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

As the incumbent sheriff, COVID-19 presents its own challenges as a global threat to everyone regardless of age, social status, gender, race or occupation. The challenges presented as a result of COVID-19 are to mitigate the contamination or spreading of the virus in sheriff's office facilities, vehicles, employees and inmates in our care. An additional challenge is the negative impact on the local and state economies due to business closures, which reduce the amount of realized sales tax revenue that underwrite portions of the state and local general funds used to support government. In closing, CCSO has utilized CDC recommendations to modify policies that reflect evidence-based practices to ensure the health of employees and citizens as they interact. The challenge is to maintain flexibility in an ever changing environment to ensure long-term solutions are identified to maintain the wellness of communities as we deliver safety, one quality experience at a time.

Campaign website: daniels4sheriff.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook


Harold Rutledge

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 58

Candidate’s family: Wife Heather, 4 children, one grandson

Occupation: Retired Lieutenant, Criminal Justice Instructor

Education: Master in Business, minor Public Administration

Political experience: Clay County Commissioner

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

Rising crime rates is a big concern. My wife and I have lived here for 23 years and are raising our family here. I want to make Clay County a safe place for them and their kids. The drug epidemic has to be stopped. Too many kids and adults are addicted to narcotics and we have to do better at stopping the user, dealer, and trafficker. I will work with our local, state, and federal partners to stop drugs in our county. The third issue is community relations. Under my administration we will return to community policing. I want officers to work a designated area so they can learn the community and its needs and the community can get to know personally the officers protecting them. This will help reduce response times, reduce crime, and reduce excessive use of force and complaints filed by citizens.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

I have the unique experience of working in the Clay County Sheriff's Office and making rank. I have worked as a youth resource officer at Ridgeview and Clay high schools. I have worked as a community police officer, crime prevention officer, and as a patrol sergeant. I am still a certified police officer, correctional officer and a 911 dispatcher. I have served my community as the president of the Green Cove Springs Kiwanis, President Orange Park Rotary Sunset, Chairman Boy Scouts of America for Clay County, board of directors for Kids First our local adoption agency, and treasurer for the Clay Action Coalition. I have served as a Clay County Commissioner and as chairman of the finance committee and chairman of the board had oversight of the counties 236 million dollar budget. I have reduced the property tax rate by 20% and did not affect services to our citizens. I have the education with a degree in criminal justice, psychology, and a master's in business administration. All of this and my 38 years experience in law enforcement make me the best candidate.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

I would like to be remembered for making Clay County a safer place to raise your children. I would also like to be remembered by the employees and a Sheriff that thought of the agency as a family. I worked for five different Sheriff's in my career. The best most effective leader were the ones that treated their employees like they are the most important people in the world. You cannot pay these men and women what they are worth. You could not afford it. But you can treat them like they are priceless.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

Everything starts with a conversation. That's how you learn. Going back to community policing starts that conversation. The department has to know who they are policing and serving on a daily basis. The community has to know who is protecting and risking their lives for them. Let's have the conversation and see exactly what the problem is and then address it.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

The challenge is to keep the department well and the public well. In my career we have had access to personal protective equipment for decades. The employees need to use the equipment issued in the proper fashion.

Campaign website: hometownharold.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook


Mike Taylor

Party affiliation: Republican

Age: 54

Candidate’s family: Wife Tari Taylor, Sons Adam Taylor, Grant Taylor (wife Brittany), Chris Taylor (wife Jodee), Daughter Kari Francom (husband Reagan), 8 grandchildren

Occupation: Deputy Chief Investigator, State Attorney 7th Circuit of FL

Education: BA Criminology

Political experience: Previously ran for Clay County Sheriff in 2008.

What do you see as the top three issues in this race?

  1. Restoring Integrity. The public deserves a Sheriff who understands there is no separation between public and private Integrity.
  2. Fighting Violent Crime, Drug Crime and Gang Activity. We must get serious about fighting real crime in our community.
  3. Returning Fiscal Responsibility. We must reign in the out of control spending and live within a budget.

How can you help voters in a way that others running for this office cannot?

From a law enforcement perspective, I am the only candidate running for Sheriff who is recognized by the courts as an expert in Racketeering, Money Laundering, Historical Drug Conspiracies and White Collar Crime. I authored the Major Drug and Money Laundering Investigation manual for FDLE Special Agents. From a business perspective, I own and operate a family business with annual gross sales in excess of $60 million and a payroll of $2 million. I have a unique business acumen combined with my law enforcement experience my opponents do not share. I will further implement a stratified policing model within the Office that will hold us all accountable to the citizens we serve and constantly identify areas for improvement.

What would you hope to be remembered for accomplishing after serving in this office?

I recently lost both of my parents to the Covid Virus. They taught me to live honorably and make a difference where ever the Lord directs you in life. I hope to be remembered for making a difference in people's lives, to make Clay County a safer community and the Sheriff's Office a professional and respected organization.

If elected how would you address the calls for racial justice?

I support efforts for appropriate police reform. We all must recognize that some of the calls for racial justice are needed. However, we also must recognize some of the agenda has been hijacked. The majority of police officers do an exceptional job and are consummate professionals. However, there are a very few who have tarnished the badge. We as professionals must address this openly and transparently to regain the trust of the citizens we serve. Additionally, should I become the Sheriff, I will increase the required training given to all deputies regarding de-escalation techniques and less than lethal force. Further, when deadly force is used even when legally justified, we will review the facts and circumstances to seek additional training opportunities, where possible, to save people's lives while enforcing the law in the future.

What challenges does COVID-19 present to the office you are seeking?

We are living in unprecedented times where government and its citizens have set aside the constitution and prohibited business and churches from operating. I believe in the constitution and the freedoms our country guarantees its citizens. We must work together to voluntarily implement recommendations for us to follow in order to be safe. However, I believe the government does not have the authority to shut down churches or private businesses as a public safety measure. Covid further presents risks to officers, employees, their families, the public and to the inmate population. We will need to work together in a transparent manner to address these issues to ensure public safety needs are met, while keeping our members and their families safe as well.

Campaign website: MikeTaylorForSheriff.com

Campaign’s social media pages: Facebook


Catherine D. Webb

Party affiliation: Republican

Campaign website: catherinewebb4sheriff.com

This candidate has not responded to our News4Jax candidate survey.


The winner of the August primary will advance to the general election because Francis Bourrie qualified as a write-in for the sheriff’s race. Clay County records show Bourrie is a registered Republican and his presence in the race keeps the primary closed to only Republicans.