Flagler County Sheriff-Elect Rick Staly is bringing back Jack Bisland as his undersheriff.
Monday’s announcement was not a surprise: Bisland, an investigator at the State Attorney’s Office, had campaigned with Staly and generously contributed to the campaign, had been Staly’s deputy when Staly was in charge of the now-defunct Ginn Corp.’s security, and had briefly worked alongside Staly in 2013, in Sheriff Jim Manfre’s administration, heading the sheriff’s office’s investigative division.
Bisland, 56, stayed less than eight months in Manfre’s administration. “I resigned from the Sheriff’s Office because I didn’t feel like the leadership at the time was—I just had ways of doing business sand some ideas that conflicted with the then-sheriff,” Bisland said today, weighing his words carefully, “and had the opportunity to go back to the State Attorney’s office. That’s what I chose to do at the time. A more concise way of saying that is I basically had some differences with the sheriff at the time.”
Bisland brings a wealth of public and private-sector experience. He retired from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as its resident-agent-in-charge for the Daytona Beach region. His many years with the State Attorney’s office in the Seventh Judicial Circuit, which includes Flagler, Volusia, St. Johns and Putnam counties, means he brings to the job innumerable contacts with sheriffs and police chiefs in the region, and a working knowledge of crime trends beyond Flagler’s borders. That’s relevant with such problems as the meth issue that Staly says has been migrating from Putnam County into the rural parts of Flagler. In private business, he was also a regional vice president for Valor Security, a national company, supervising 350 employees and a $7 million budget.
“He’s great, he’s very professional, he’s very knowledgeable, well respected in the law enforcement community in this area,” Staly said, “and he understands both law enforcement and the business perspective, having worked for Valor where he’s responsible for a lot of employees and the budget.” Of Bisland’s law enforcement background, Staly said: “He brings great investigative skill and leadership skill, that’s what I was looking for, someone that knows my expectations, has high integrity and can deliver the vision, help deliver the vision that I set out.”
Bisland, describing himself as a “hands-on guy” who does not generally work from behind a desk (“we’re not going to be office dwellers”) said he expects to focus on quality-of-life and neighborhood crimes that affect people’s daily lives. His background in investigations may help close unsolved crimes. And he’ll seek to bring to sheriff’s office “technology and a style of policing that involves technology and analysis of intelligence” that can be turned into actionable information, he said.
His appointment means that Staly will not have a chief deputy, as that position, currently held by Jeff Hoffman, will be synonymous with that of the undersheriff. Hoffman will be reassigned, though to what will be determined over the next few weeks as Staly and his transition team conduct interviews with every member of the the command staff. What’s clear is that Hoffman and every other member of that command staff will have a job at the agency if her or she wants it.
“I made a commitment, and no one will lose their job,” Staly said. “I will not be firing people.” During the campaign Staly stressed that he would not be firing people as he sought to sharply distinguish himself from Manfre’s first two years–the two years in which Staly had served as undersheriff–when Manfre’s firings, demotions and reassignments fostered resentment in the ranks and lost Manfre much of the ranks’ support.
Paralleling the announcement of Bisland’s appointment Monday was Staly’s announcement of his 11-member transition team, a mix of individuals who’ve retired from law enforcement, the military, business and, in one case, a still-employed professor of public administration at Flagler College.
Seven of the 11 members of the team were donors to the Staly campaign, some of them among its biggest donors: Bisland and his spouse contributed $4,000, so did Mark Strobridge and his spouse (Strobridge retired from the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, where Staly spent most of his law enforcement career). Other members of the transition team who contributed are Ken Neu, who retired from the FBI (he and his spouse contributed $2,000), Bob Weber, who retired from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office in 2015 ($1,300), Llloyd Freckleton, a retired warden at New York’s Rikers Island who was also an MP in the military ($200) and Edward Gepner, a Palm Coast accountant ($105).
The transition team also includes non-donors: Kevin McCarthy of the Coastal Florida Police Benevolent Association (the vice president of the police union, Kon Dopp, a corporal at the agency, contributed $100); Joe Saviak of Flagler Collegem Jackie Rector, an insurance executive in palm Coast, Frank DeAngelo, a retired Applebee’s CEO who lives in Palm Coast, and Braulio Peruvero, who retired from the Florida Department of Corrections.
Staly said there was no connection between contributions and being on the transition team. “Some of them happened to contribute to my campaign, yes, because they believed in me, but I selected them for their skill set in the knowledge that they bring as look at my team and the agency,” the sheriff-elect said. He noted that his campaign drew a large number of donors and resulted in a winning margin of some 10,000 votes. “I’m honored so many people supported my campaign but I made no promises during my campaign and wouldn’t do that, and I am going to choose the best people.” (Several members of Manfre’s command staff also contributed to the Staly campaign, including Steve Brandt, Chris Sepe, Steve Cole, and Hoffman.)
Service on the transition team itself is unpaid, and when its work is done by January 3, the transition team will disband. “I would not call it a reward at all, they’re not being paid for it, they’re voluntary in their time, they’re committed to the community, and if you look at it they bring all kinds of different types of perspective and skills to my leadership team.”
Since shortly after the election Staly has been working out of an office at the old sheriff’s operations center near the jail, preparing for the transition. He’s been meeting with each individual member of the sheriff’s staff, getting to know his employees, seeking their input and suggestions. Starting Wednesday, he and the transition team will all meet with members of the command staff, in interviews centered on a set of questions Staly prepared with input from the team. “Everybody will ask some of the questions,” he said. “At the conclusion of each interview, I will ask the board for some feedback.”
Cooperation from Manfre’s administration through the transition has been “outstanding,” Staly said.
As for Bisland, the future under-sheriff said “the expectation of me should be one of service. I have no agenda whatsoever other than to serve the people of Flagler County and the men and women of the sheriff’s office.”