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Mark Whisenant, Flagler County Sheriff Candidate: The Live Interview

| July 21, 2016

mark whisenant flagler sheriff candidate 2016

Mark Whisenant. (© FlaglerLive)

Mark Whisenant is a candidate for Flagler County Sheriff. He faces five opponents in the Aug. 30 Republican primary: Donald Fleming, John Lamb, Jerry O’Gara, Rick Staly, and Chris Yates. The winner of that primary will face the winner of a Democratic primary featuring two candidates, plus one independent candidate who will also appear on the Nov. 8, general election ballot, Thomas Dougherty. Dougherty is running a self-funded and not very visible campaign.


The Aug. 30 vote is a closed primary: only registered Democrats may vote for the Democratic candidate of their choice, only registered Republicans may vote for the Republican candidate of their choice. Independents and voters registered with minor parties do not get a vote in this particular race until the Nov. 8 general election. Independent voters do get to vote in several other local races that are non-partisan or that will be the equivalent of a general election, including school board, Palm Coast City Council and supervisor of elections.
Of the nine candidates for sheriff, only two, Manfre and Don Fleming, have won elections before. The sheriff’s office has been led by one or the other for the past 16 years, starting with Manfre from 2001 to 2004, then Fleming for eight years, then Manfre again starting in 2013. The race has drawn the most candidates for any single local office, and generated the most expensive campaigns, with total fund-raising (and loans from candidates to themselves) exceeding $200,000 between them, as of mid-July.

The sheriff is paid $126,123 a year. The salary is set by the state based on the county’s population, but paid out of local dollars. The winner will serve a four-year term, controlling a current budget of $25 million, 255 full-time employees and 30 part-time employees.

FlaglerLive submitted identical questions to all candidates, with the understanding that additional questions might be tailored to candidates individually and some follow-up questions may be asked, with all exchanges on the record. The Live Interview’s aim is to elicit as much candor and transparency as possible. We have asked candidates to refrain from making campaign speeches or make lists of accomplishments. We have also asked candidates to reasonably document any claim or accusation. Undocumented claims are edited out. Answers are also edited for length, redundancy, relevance and, where possible, accuracy. If a candidate does not answer a question or appears to be evading a question, that’s noted.

But it’s ultimately up to the reader to judge the quality and sincerity of a candidate’s answers.

The Questions in Summary: Quick Links

The Basics: Mark Whisenant

Place and Date of Birth: Not provided.
Current job: Not provided.
Party Affiliation: Republican
Net Worth and Financial DisclosureNot provided.
Resume: Not provided. 
Website: Not provided.

1. What qualifies you to be the sheriff?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

2016 Election Interviews

Supervisor of Elections


Kaiti Lenhart
Kimble Medley
Abra Seay

Sheriff


Jim Manfre (D)
Don Fleming (R)
Larry Jones (D)
John Lamb (R)
Jerry O'Gara(R)
Rick Staly (R)
Mark Whisenant (R)
Chris Yates (R)
Thomas Dougherty (I)

Palm Coast City Council


Robert Cuff (Dist. 1)
Troy DuBose (Dist. 1)
Sims Jones (Dist. 1)
Art McGovern Jr. (Dist. 1)
Nick Klufas (Dist. 3)
Anita Moeder (Dist. 3)
Pam Richardson (Dist. 3)
John Brady (Mayor)
Milissa Holland (Mayor)
Dennis McDonald (Mayor)
Ron Radford (Mayor)

Flagler School Board


Colleen Conklin (Dist. 3)
Jason Sands (Dist. 3)
Paul Anderson (Dist. 5)
Maria Barbosa (Dist. 5)
Sharon Demers (Dist. 5)
Myra Middleton-Valentine (Dist. 5)

Flagler County Commission


Charlie Ericksen (Dist. 1)
Ken Mazzie (Dist. 1)
Daniel Potter (Dist. 1)
Jason France (Dist. 3)
Dave Sullivan (Dist. 3)
Denise Calderwood (Dis. 5)
Donald O'Brien (Dist. 5)

2. Describe your character and temperament, and what people you’ve worked with—or citizens you’ve interacted with—would say are your most serious personal flaws, in so far as how they affect your job. What do you do to address those flaws?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

3. What is the most dangerous thing or temptation about a sheriff’s power, and how do you intend to control it?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

4. Raising morale and pay aside, what are your three priorities as sheriff that will directly affect the public and visibly improve public safety?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

5. Give us your geographically precise and documented summary of where you see the county’s and Palm Coast’s greatest law enforcement needs, how those needs compare with the way personnel is currently assigned, and what you would do differently, if anything.

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

6. Putting aside ethical issues that have affected the current and previous sheriff—and that have been amply treated in the press and elsewhere—what are three community-related issues the sheriff has handled well, and three that he’s handled poorly.

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

7. Turnover has been steep. The average years of experience of deputies on the street has fallen, exposing the public to generally younger, possibly more gung-ho but less seasoned deputies. To what do you attribute the turnover, and what specific steps will you take to reduce turn-over and add experience to our streets?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

8. Since Sheriff Manfre took over, not a single individual has been killed, shot, or shot at by a Flagler County deputy in Flagler County. (One individual shot himself in a stand-off with deputies in November 2013, and ex-Flagler deputy Daniel Ruddell was shot at last November as he attempted to flee from deputies, including Flagler deputies, in St. Johns County). But there were at least four documented instances of armed individuals who were peacefully apprehended after stand-offs or confrontations. That’s in contrast with numerous police shootings in Volusia and St. Johns over the same period, at a time when police have been under greater scrutiny because of such shootings. To what do you attribute the way Flagler deputies have bucked the trend, and what will you do to ensure that this, as opposed to a more violent, norm, continues?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

9. Ta-Nehisi Coates tells his teen-age son, in his National Book Award-winning “Between the World and Me” (2015): “Black people love their children with a kind of obsession. You are all we have, and you come to us endangered. I think we would like to kill you ourselves before seeing you killed by the streets that America made. That is a philosophy of the disembodied, of a people who control nothing, who can protect nothing, who are made to fear not just the criminals among them but the police who lord over them with all the moral authority of a protection racket.” Is Coates wrong? Putting what Coates tells his son in the context of a county that was last to desegregate in Florida, and that still has an overwhelmingly white sheriff’s office, tell us how you’d reassure parents of young black men in this community.

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

10. If you were to give a grade to the war on drugs as it’s been conducted since Nixon, what would that grade be, and why? Putting aside what the law is at the moment, do you think casual pot users—the occasional reefer smoker, the person caught with a few joints—should be criminally charged and jailed, as opposed to issued civil citations? What role should officer discretion play in criminally charging casual pot users?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

11. The Flagler County jail’s bed space has now more than doubled, though for the past decade, including the years of somewhat higher crime during the housing boom years, it served the county’s needs. Despite an increasing population, crime is not increasing apace. Diversionary programs are also helping. But jail beds have a way of abhorring emptiness. What will you do to keep beds from getting filled just because they’re there?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

12. In your opinion, and your own places of employment past and present aside, what is the best example of a Police or Sheriff Department in the United States, and why? Please be precise in your choice of agency.

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

13. If you have been the subject of one or more Internal Affairs investigation or its equivalent, or a use of force complaint, please tell us in what agency, when, what the circumstances or issues were, and what the disposition was in those cases.

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

14. Customized question for Mark Whisenant: You declined to answer these questions. It’s your prerogative. But what does that say about your ability to contend fairly and objectively with anyone, citizen, cop, union organization, government representative, business owner or media representative, with whom you may have differences? If you are unwilling to engage with a mere reporter’s written questions from the comfort of your own desk in your own time, how are residents, or the men and women under your command, to expect you–as this county’s most powerful law enforcement chief–will engage with crisis situations on your feet, when the questions you will have to answer will be less friendly, often unpredictable, a lot more critical and rarely of your choosing? What does having to even ask you this 14th question say about your ability to be transparent, and your ability to lead an agency within the demanding parameters of Florida’s Sunshine law?

Mark Whisenant did not answer the question.

Jump to other candidates’ answer: Dougherty | Fleming | Jones | Lamb | Manfre | O’Gara | Staly | Whisenant | Yates

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17 Responses for “Mark Whisenant, Flagler County Sheriff Candidate: The Live Interview”

  1. tulip says:

    Well, I guess he doesn’t want to be elected. What’s with not answering questions? Same for O gara

  2. BlueJammer says:

    A man of few words.

  3. 30 year cop says:

    Four years ago Whisenant tried to run for Sheriff in South Carolina as a Democrat, did not get on the ballot so he ran as an Independant and lost. Now he finds himself in Flagler County and seeing there are thousands more registered Republicans than Democrats, he decides to run this time as a Republican.

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=nq8gKJEtxrQ

    Mark, after you lose this election, where are you going to move to, to run for Sheriff next? Oh, and for info you are running out of parties to choose from.

    Also your highest Police Officer rank is Sergeant, do you really think the voters of Flagler County would promote you all the way to Sheriff.

  4. Robert Lewis says:

    Really? Another who refused?

  5. Geezer says:

    Don’t you just love that big smile?
    Elect this man!

  6. Freddy says:

    Waste of time!

  7. r&r says:

    Color him gone along with Ogara.

  8. DaveT says:

    NO answer NO vote. Interesting when he lived in SC and he ran for office as a write in for sheriff of Charleston County but as a Democrat. . Why are these men not answering the questions.

  9. Born and Raised Here says:

    Why don’t these candidate answer all the questions ? Are they embarrass where they’re from ? I’m. proud to be a Native Floridian.

  10. Anonymous One says:

    This guy is wasting everyone’s time by even running for Sheriff. Mr Whisenant please respond to my post and tell my why someone with your limited Police experience, you should get even one vote. Tell us how many years you were a Cop, not a Coast Guard Reserve.

  11. John Boy says:

    At least take the 5th.

  12. PJ says:

    When I was at the first panel with the Young Republicans I liked many of the things that all the candidates had to say.

    I liked Mr Whisenant it was refreshing but just like the rest of them up there great ideas that cost money and time to implement but none the less refreshing and positive.

    With all that said, one thing as a voter you have to say things to us to get our attention. Through Flaglerlive, The Observer, WNZF radio and other media they help us voters formulate our opinions of you all.

    Yea sure maybe you don’t like the local editors and the way they conduct their business but guess what my friend they are the way we get our news and help us get informed. More so they the media allow us to form opinions and although I don’t know you Mr. Whisenant not hearing your thoughts clearly has me now not wanting to waste my vote on you. Sadly I’m sorry………..

  13. LawAbidingCitizen says:

    WOW…another candidate that answers no questions. Do these guys even want to be the Sheriff.

  14. Ken says:

    Perhaps the questions were too complicated. Obviously, Mr. Whisenant is NOT ready for Prime Time.

  15. carol says:

    Well, who can possibly vote for this bozo??

  16. Layla says:

    My advice is get to a local Sheriff’s forum, they are all attending and you will get to see, listen to each. If a candidate is not interested in answering questions, than he/she is not interested in my vote.

  17. Geezer says:

    Somebody looks mad, and is giving someone else the silent treatment.
    “I’m not your friend anymore.”

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