The race for sheriff
As most of Gulf County’s residents realize, the primary elections will be held on Aug. 18. Of importance to all residents is the Office of Gulf County Sheriff. There are two candidates worthy of consideration, the challenger Rhett Butler and the incumbent Mike Harrison.
Rhett Butler, 38, is a life-long Gulf County resident. He is a graduate of Port St. Joe High School. Rhett and his wife have been married for 18 years and have four children. He and his family are members of the Long Avenue Baptist Church.
Rhett began his career twenty years ago with the Florida Department of Corrections as a Corrections Officer in 2000. During his career, he has risen through the ranks to Captain and today holds the rank of Lieutenant. When he was a sergeant, one of his many duties involved training the in-house staff and maintaining over 600 training files at the correction center. Since 2013 as a Lieutenant/Captain, he serves in a supervisory position at Gulf C.I. main unit, annex and Forestry Camp, duties include K9 Team Leader, Rapid Response Team Member, Munitions Squad Team Member and Direct Armed Response Team Leader. Rhett has during his career completed numerous classes, many of which can be utilized in law enforcement, examples, Hostage Negotiations, Search and Seizure, Suicide Prevention/Intervention, Drug Identification, Emergency Preparedness, Critical Thinking During Critical Incidents and Human Trafficking.
He participates in many community services/programs such as “Toys for Tots” for Gulf County Elementary Schools, American Cancer Society Relay for Life, Law Enforcement Run for Special Olympics, and providing Thanksgiving Baskets for Gulf County’s needy families and Providing Needed Supplies to Elderly Citizens of Gulf County.
Rhett’s election slogan is “Make Gulf County Safe Again”, with special emphasis on the county’s Meth Dealers and the meth problem in Gulf County.
Incumbent Mike Harrison was raised in Gulf County. He graduated from Wewahitchka High School in 1986, attended Pensacola Junior College and Gulf Coast Community College from 1986-1988, attained a BS in Political Science with a minor in Criminology from Florida State University in 1991. He graduated from Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy in 1994. He and his wife have been married for 26 years with three children. He and his family are members of the First Baptist Church in Wewahitchka, where he serves on several committees and participates in many activities.
Sheriff Harrison began his law enforcement career with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement from 1991-1995. He was a member of the Arrest Unit and Division of Criminal Investigations. From 1995-2004, he was with the Gadsden County Sheriff’s office, duties included Patrol Deputy, Patrol Supervisor, Sergeant of Criminal Investigations and Drug Task Force Officer. From 2005-2008, Mike was a member of the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office, as a Lieutenant and Major he served as an Investigator and Chief Investigator. In 2009 he worked as a Child Protective Investigator for the Florida Department of Children of Families. In 2009, Mike joined the Florida Department of Corrections as a Classification Officer and was a Law Enforcement Inspector from 2010-2012.
Mike has completed numerous training classes throughout his career including, Highway Drug Interdiction, Internet Crimes Against Children, Spanish for Law Enforcement Officers, Strategies for Community Policing, Active Shooter Training, Incident Command Training and over 300 hours of specialized training as a Florida Sheriff.
Sheriff Harrison was elected Gulf County Sheriff in 2012 and re-elected in 2018. Since 2013, under his administration, he has led the agency with professionalism, fairness and integrity, the core values of his agency. Since his initial election overall crime has seen a 48% decrease and violent crime has decreased 58%. His emphasis on drug enforcement has resulted in methamphetamine arrests up 368%! To deter drugs in our schools he has assigned a K9 unit to our schools. With the ever- growing drug epidemic in our country, he is determined to keep drug dealers out of our county.
In 2018, under his administration, the Sheriff’s Office made the largest drug bust in Gulf County history, removing over a million dollars of drugs and drug money off our streets. Nine months ago, the Gulf County Sheriff’s Office began an investigation into meth and crack cocaine dealers, with co-operation from the North Star Multi-Jurisdictional Drug Task Force. Recently the investigation resulted in the arrests of eight Gulf County drug dealers. This investigation extended from Wewahitchka to Howard Creek to Highland View to Port St. Joe.
Sheriff Harrison’s administration was put to the test after Michael hit our area, many of his staff lost their homes, however, in many instances, the staff put the welfare and needs of Gulf County residents above their own personal situations. During and after the storm, it was obvious that the Sheriff’s Office’s communication system was woefully outdated, Sheriff Harrison has supervised an update to the system and additional updating continues to take place. Since the “storm” the agency has been understaffed, due in large part to a lack of affordable housing throughout the county. The current pandemic has brought new and unexpected challenges to the agency. Sheriff Harrison participates in many community services, Law Enforcement Run for Special Olympics, Tip- a -Cop Program for Special Olympics, Dixie Youth Baseball Coach, American Cancer Society Relay for Life Leader. Along with other civic organizations, he collects and distributes toys to needy children at Christmas, distributes Thanksgiving and Easter baskets to the county’s families in need and the agency awards two scholarships annually to two deserving high school seniors in the county.
Sheriff Harrison is well respected among his peers, having served on the Board of Directors for the Florida Sheriff’s Association, he also has been selected to serve as Vice-Chairman of the Board of Managers for the Florida Sheriff’s Risk Management Fund.
All information in this letter can be found on each candidate’s Facebook page and in previous articles printed in The Star. I write this, not in support of either candidate, but to allow the county’s registered voters to be as informed as possible when they go to the polls to vote for this vitally important position in Gulf County.
Cape San Blas Road