The Sheriff is an elected constitutional officer for a term of four years and is also the chief law enforcement officer, the chief bailiff of the court, and the chief corrections officer of the county.
In June 1921, a referendum calling for Manatee County to be divided was passed and Sarasota County was formed. Governor Cary A. Hardee appointed World War I veteran and Palmer family employee, Burna D. Levi, Sheriff of Sarasota County on July 1, 1921. Sheriff Levi, who had no previous law enforcement experience, chose not to run in the November 1922 election.
Sarasota City Marshal L. D. Hodges was elected Sheriff and took office on December 1922. During his tenure he oversaw the construction of the County Courthouse located on Main Street. Much of the original building has been recently renovated to display its original grandeur. On June 5th, 1928, Sheriff Hodges lost the Democratic primary to the captain of the road gang, W. Albert Keen.
W. Albert Keen was sworn in as Sarasota County’s third Sheriff on January 8, 1929. While investigating a gambling operation in the Laurel area, Sheriff Keen and Special Deputy Walter Whitted suffered gunshot wounds. After the incident, they drove themselves to Sarasota Memorial Hospital for treatment. Sheriff’s Keen’s right leg had to be amputated because of the injury but he continued to serve as Sheriff until losing a run-off election to Clem Pearson.
(Right: Sheriff Doug Pearson transmitting on the agency's new police radio.)
January 3rd, 1933, Clem Pearson, a former City of Sarasota Police Officer was sworn in as Sheriff and served until health concerns forced him into retirement in May 1939. His son, B. Douglas “Doug” Pearson, who served as a Deputy for only a year prior to his appointment, was sworn in as Sheriff by Governor Fred P. Cone.
Doug Pearson was 29 years old and one of Florida’s youngest Sheriffs when he took office to replace his father. Sheriff Pearson served for 13 years until his retirement in January 1953.
Former Florida Highway Patrolman Ross E. Boyer took office on January 6, 1953. Sheriff Boyer is to date the longest serving Sarasota County Sheriff, retiring in January 1973. He took over an agency with three deputies who did not have uniforms or marked patrol cars and made it into a professional force numbering 80 deputies.
(Right: Sheriff Ross Boyer alongside one of the agency's first marked vehicles.)
Sarasota Police Department Patrolman Jim Hardcastle became Sarasota County’s seventh Sheriff on January 2, 1973. Sheriff Hardcastle is credited with modernizing the agency by installing computer dispatch terminals in patrol cars, using propane as an alternative vehicle fuel source and hiring the first female law enforcement deputy. Sheriff Hardcastle served until January 8, 1985 after losing the election to his former chief deputy, Geoffrey Monge.
Monge was sworn in as Sarasota County’s eighth Sheriff on January 8, 1985. Sheriff Monge had a distinguished career with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before coming to the Sheriff’s Office as Captain of detectives under Sheriff Hardcastle. During his tenure, Sheriff Monge was instrumental in the construction of a new jail facility and the Criminal Justice Center, which today is where the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office is headquartered. During his four terms as Sheriff, the Consolidated Communications Center merger was completed and the Sarasota County Jail became the first in the state to gain accreditation status. Sheriff Monge retired in January 2001.
Captain William Balkwill, a long time Sarasota County Sheriff’s Deputy, was elected in 2000 and took office in January 2001. Having been a School Resource Officer for many years, Sheriff Balkwill advocated for Sarasota’s youth, and in 2004 he incorporated the Sarasota Sailor Circus into the Police Athletic League program run by the Sheriff’s Office. Sheriff Balkwill retired in January 2009 after serving two terms.
In November 2008, residents elected Sheriff Thomas M. Knight to become the tenth Sheriff in the agency’s history. He took office on January 6, 2009. Sheriff Knight came to the agency with more than 20 years of law enforcement experience, rising to the rank of major with the Florida Highway Patrol.