The highest position in county law enforcement is up for a vote this November. Democratic candidate Danny Griffith has stepped up to oppose current Sheriff Michael Adkinson for the post.
The Sun asked the candidates about their personal histories, law enforcement backgrounds, and what each would identify — and solve — as the biggest problems in the county.
Give a little background about yourself, especially as it pertains to Walton County.
Michael Adkinson: I am a Walton county native and currently reside in DeFuniak Springs with my wife of 18 years and two daughters Annabelle, 11, and Ava, 7. My wife Erin owns and operates her own business, Owner’s Rep, based in South Walton. We are Baptist by faith and attend church in DeFuniak Springs.
Danny Griffith: I was born and raised in Walton County to father Howard Griffith and mother Peggy Griffith. I attended and completed school in Walton County, graduating from Walton High School. I married my wife, Gerry, in 1974, and we have two children and seven grandchildren.
What is your background in law enforcement?
Adkinson: I am about to start my 19th year in law enforcement, and during that time I have witnessed many changes in law enforcement philosophies and practices. Having worked in the state, municipal and county law enforcement arena, I have developed a sense of what works and what is needed for continued professional growth. I have served at different levels of law enforcement command structures from line supervisor to chief of police prior to becoming sheriff in 2009. I have a Bachelor of Science in Criminology from Florida State University (1992) and will complete a Master’s of Science in Criminal Justice from St. Leo in May 2013. I have completed numerous advanced command level schools and have made continued education a priority for my staff.
Griffith: I was employed by the Florida Highway Patrol in 1977. I served the citizens of Florida (as a highway patrolman) in Broward, Okaloosa and Walton counties for a total of 19 years. While with FHP, I was a field training officer for 28 years, instructor for the rank and file officers and supervisors, and later an adjunct instructor at OWCC (now Northwest Florida State College) for 12 years, as well as an instructor for the FHP Auxiliary. I retired from the FHP in May 2011 after 33-and-a-half years of service. My wife and I owned a daycare and learning center for 22 years also.
What are the most significant problems our county faces?
Adkinson: While crime is now at an almost 40-year low level, we are still seeing exponential growth in drug abuse. Walton County is dealing with a significant methamphetamine and prescription pill problem. The sheriff’s office is now one of the state’s top performers in combating the manufacture of methamphetamine. In the future I intend to use my position as sheriff not only to combat the drug issue, but also to emphasize preventive measures to help citizens protect themselves and their children from the dangers of substance abuse.
Griffith: Walton County has a problem with drugs that needs to be better addressed. We also have a problem with burglaries and thefts, especially residential thefts. I believe that by addressing the drug problem, we will have a significant reduction in the burglaries and thefts.
How would you improve the current Sheriff's Office operations to better serve citizens, cut costs, etc.?
Adkinson: The Walton County Sheriff’s Office is implementing a businesslike approach to improving efficiency and customer satisfaction. One such program is our LEAN program, based on the Toyota management philosophy of Lean Six Sigma. And while we have reduced our operating budget by almost $1 million dollars, since 2009 we have been able to maintain productivity. The sheriff’s office is expected to handle over 140,000 calls for service in 2012. Comparing this to the less than 90,000 calls for service in 2007 illustrates that while handling a reduced operating budget, we have been able to meet the needs of the public.
During my four years as sheriff we handled the challenges and obstacles from a wide range or areas, from oil spills to major homicide investigations. We have been recognized as a leader in law enforcement innovation.
Griffith: As your sheriff, I will be a public servant with integrity. I will be a good steward of your tax dollars and strive to cut costs within the department by reviewing the budget and efficiently using your tax dollars. I will be available to the public and foster relationships with the citizens and communities to improve the department.
Quality law enforcement is best achieved when citizens and officers work in cooperation to achieve the goal of self-compliance within our communities.