Sheriff Hoffman Holds Promotion Ceremony

NEWS RELEASE 24-003 - JANUARY 23, 2024
promotions group photo - Copy

Pictured from left to right: Captain Jeff Vajdik, Lieutenant Lewis Hirtzel, Captain Ivan Nelson, Sergeant Keith Haley, Sergeant Eric Ellis, Lieutenant Stephanie Knapek,
Sergeant William Willis, Sergeant Shandra Polynice,
Sergeant Ian Vaughn, Lieutenant Jennifer Shaddix-Barker, and Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman.

Sarasota County Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman is proud to announce the promotion of ten sheriff’s office members in a Friday ceremony.

Sergeant William Willis started with SCSO in 2016 after serving with the Florida Department of Corrections. In March 2020, he became a Corrections Field Training Deputy. His continuing education courses include Spanish for Criminal Justice Professionals, crisis intervention training, and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Firearms Instructor certification. Sergeant Willis holds a Bachelor of Arts in Biblical Studies.

Sergeant Keith Haley began his career with SCSO in 2004. He was selected as a Field Training Deputy and remained in that capacity for thirteen years. He was nominated and received the Employee of the Month Award for the Courts and Corrections Division in March of 2021. Sergeant Haley has an Associate of Arts in Criminal Justice and is pursuing his Bachelor of Arts in Emergency Management.

Sergeant Ian Vaughn was hired by SCSO in 2015, where he served as a programs deputy and was appointed to the Corrections Emergency Response Team (CERT). He received the Employee of the Month for the Courts and Corrections Division in June 2019 and as the Courts and Corrections Deputy of the Year in 2022. Sergeant Vaughn also has a degree in nursing.

Sergeant Eric Ellis was hired by SCSO in 2011 and assigned to patrol, where he served as a K-9 handler, on the Emergency Response Team, as a Field Training Deputy, and with the agency’s Intelligence Unit. In 2021, he became a United States Marshals Task Force member. Sergeant Ellis received both a Unit Citation and a Meritorious Achievement award for his work on a significant homicide. Additionally, he was recognized as the 2022 Sarasota Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Deputy of the Year. He holds a Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems.

Sergeant Shandra Polynice started with SCSO in 2013. She served in youth services as a school resource deputy and later as a detective. Polynice was awarded Employee of the Month for the Law Enforcement Division in October 2020. She received the Life Saving Award for her efforts in reviving an unresponsive suicidal victim who was pulled from a swimming pool. Sergeant Polynice holds a Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice.

Lieutenant Stephanie Knapek started her career as a booking technician at SCSO in 2010. Knapek obtained her corrections certification and was transferred to the operations bureau as a deputy later that year. She served as a programs deputy before being promoted to sergeant. Sergeant Knapek has an Associate of Arts and completed the FDLE Leadership Academy last year.

Lieutenant Lewis Hirtzel was hired by SCSO in April 2009 as a corrections deputy and appointed as a CERT member in 2016. Later that same year, he was promoted to sergeant, where his assignments were as sergeant of inmate property and later inmate programs. He attended the FBI-Law Enforcement Executive Development Association (FBI-LEEDA) Supervisor Leadership course and is a certified Defensive Tactics Instructor. Lieutenant Hirtzel holds an associate degree and graduated in 2023 from the National Institute for Jail Operations Elite Academy.

Lieutenant Jennifer Shaddix-Barker was hired by SCSO in 2007 as a booking technician. She spent several years in various roles within corrections and was awarded the Employee of the Month in January 2020. She holds an associate degree and has attended the Florida Model Jail Standards (FMJS) Inspector course. She is currently an FMJS inspector. Lieutenant Shaddix-Barker graduated from the FDLE Florida Leadership Academy in 2023 and is currently attending the St. Leo University Command School while working towards her Bachelor of Arts in Criminal Justice.

Captain Jeff Vajdik was hired by SCSO in 2004. He was later appointed as a CERT member before being promoted to sergeant, where he served in both the services and operations bureaus. As a lieutenant, he was assigned as a watch commander and appointed as the commander of CERT in 2019 before serving as an administrative lieutenant. Captain Vajdik earned his Bachelor of Arts in Accounting and graduated from the 73rd Louisville Southern Police Institute Developmental Course. He is an instructor at the Suncoast Corrections Academy.

Captain Ivan Nelson was hired by SCSO in 2008 and promoted through the ranks, serving as a sergeant and then lieutenant. He graduated from the FDLE Florida Leadership Academy, the Florida Sheriff’s Institute Engaging Leadership course, and the St. Leo Command School. Captain Nelson holds a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice specializing in corrections, a master’s degree, and is pursuing his doctorate.

“When you hear the qualifications of these leaders within our agency and witness the work they do daily, you can be assured that character, leadership, and training run deep at SCSO,” said Sheriff Kurt A. Hoffman. “I am consistently awed by the quality of our employees and grateful to lead and serve with such an exceptional team.”