The Herald recommends: Brad Steube, GOP, Manatee County sheriff

July 29, 2012 

With 36 years in law enforcement, a degree from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy and a broad range of community service, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube has a commendable record of crime fighting and civic leadership in the pursuit of public safety.

Appointed sheriff in 2007 and elected to office in 2008, Steube has demonstrated success in lowering crime rates and initiated a variety of administrative improvements during his stewardship of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

His opponent in the Aug. 14 election is William Waldron, who retired as a detective with the MCSO in 2010 to pursue other career opportunities and mount a campaign for the sheriff's office. Waldron has 20 years of law enforcement experience, including service in the military police.

Because only two GOP candidates qualified for the contest, the election is a "universal primary" open to all voters, not just registered Republicans.

The winner will thus assume the sheriff's post.

Since taking office five years ago, Steube has focused on gangs and drugs. His record on public safety is impressive -- with violent crime down 30 percent since he took office and an annual 4 percent reduction in overall crime.

Those statistics are all the more impressive given the office's tight budgets during the economic downturn and the staffing challenges from a salary schedule lower than nearby law enforcement agencies.

Steube continues to lobby the county commission to fill that pay gap, else the department continue to lose deputies to those agencies -- an effort we support.

He initiated two important projects that are nearing completion. Property and evidence storage will no longer be scattered around the county but will be housed in one central location by the end of this year, fully inventoried and computerized for easy access.

Once equipped with laptops in patrol cars, deputies will be able to file crime reports electronically for speedier approval by supervisors -- thus saving on gas expenses and lost time as officers will no longer be forced to drive back to offices.

Steube recently dealt with charges of inappropriate and possibly criminal episodes at the county jail and farm, implementing new policies and procedures that will effectively end poor practices.

Upon completion of an MCSO investigation into the personal use of public property by jail personnel, Steube sent the findings to the state attorney's office for a determination on prosecution. But the prosecutor's office declined to press charges, finding the allegations were not sustained. The sheriff immediately instituted a ban on the improper use of farm equipment.

Steube then requested an independent investigation into accusations of embezzlement out of the Inmate Commissary Fund, opening all the books to auditors and R.B. "Chips" Shore, the Manatee County Clerk of the Circuit Court. The probe did not uncover embezzlement, but did result in a pair of issues.

In one, Steube acted quickly to implement a new accounting system to eliminate the insufficient documentation that had been occurring with a small number of ICF expenditures.

In the other, the sheriff disputed the finding that certain expenditures were inappropriate, arguing that state standards are loosely written. He also acquired opinions from attorneys and other sheriffs and auditors supporting his position -- a convincing case, we find.

Steube acted with transparency and professionalism in this case.

With his experience creating multimillion dollar budgets, composing detailed strategic plans for the department and directing a staff of more than 1,100, Steube has considerable experience and qualifications for this office.

The Herald Editorial Board recommends Brad Steube for Manatee County sheriff.

Candidate rebuttals

Candidates who do not receive the Herald Editorial Board's endorsement are invited to submit a response of up to 300 words by 5 p.m. the day after the endorsement appears in print.

Those can be sent to letters@bradenton.com or faxed to 745-7047.

View candidate forums

Several weeks ago, The Herald, in partnership with Manatee Educational Television, videotaped candidate forums in these contested races.

These forums can be viewed on www.bradenton.com on the "Recent Multimedia" page.

METV is also regularly airing all the forums, and the station can be viewed on Brighthouse channel 614, Verizon FIOS 31 and Comcast 19. For METV airtimes, visit www.metvweb.com.

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