Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams will retire June 10 to avoid ‘court battle’ over residency

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — In the midst of a controversy over his move to Nassau County, Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams has announced he will retire next week.

“After some consideration, I have decided that a court battle over my residency would not be good for our community. That being said, I have decided to retire on June 10,” Williams wrote in a letter.

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Term-limited Williams had one more year left as sheriff. He originally told Action News Jax that he has no plans to resign and would fight being ousted in court.

After the Sheriff announced his retirement, City Council President Sam Newby withdrew his request for the city’s General Counsel to review whether Williams had vacated his position by moving out of the county.

That opinion was originally set to be released by 2 p.m. While the opinion isn’t binding, because Newby rescinded his request for the opinion, it would have deemed the office of the sheriff vacant as of 2 p.m. Thursday.

“I think this keeps us from, this issue dragging out. It stops to a large part the drama involved,” said Councilmember Matt Carlucci.

Carlucci told us he doesn’t believe at this point the opinion needs to be made binding, arguing the draft opinion will serve as guidance going forward.

“I think that’s important historically and if this thing ever comes up again it’s like case history,” said Carlucci.

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The draft opinion also deemed valid all compensation of, and actions taken by the sheriff during the year he lived outside of Duval.

Newby said he was pleased with the resolution.

“This probably the cleanest one we could have asked for,” Newby said.

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He also thanked the sheriff for deciding against a court battle.

“Because it could have been a long drawn out, so I commend the sheriff for resigning and the sheriff has done a really good job,” Newby said.

However, with the draft opinion saying the office would be vacated by 2 p.m. Thursday and the sheriff retiring Friday of the following week, Mayoral candidate and City Councilmember LeAnna Cumber feels there is still a need for more clarity.

“I just think that there’s a lot of questions to be answered and I think that we need to do that, because look we need to make sure that the integrity of the office remains,” Cumber said.

What’s next for the office of the Jacksonville sheriff?

On Thursday afternoon, Councilmember Brenda Jackson filed an official request with the Office of General Counsel, seeking a binding determination on whether the sheriff’s office was officially vacated back in March of 2021, when Williams moved to Nassau County.

That request will likely be a topic of discussion during the upcoming city council meeting Monday.

In that meeting, council members are also expected to call for and set the dates for a special election.

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Councilmember Garrett Dennis told us the council needs to look forward.

“As a council we need to move forward with setting a special election to replace the sheriff, allow the voters to select who they would like to lead the men and woman in blue and protect us here in Duval County,” said Dennis.

All four members we spoke with Thursday indicated the special election will likely be set for August 23rd, the same date as the Primary Election.

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If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a runoff would be held on the already scheduled November 8 General Election.

“The elections are already set and so you know, as long as we can meet that deadline, get that in, which I think is critical cause we really don’t want to have a big gap where we don’t need it,” said Cumber.

Still, that leaves at least a nearly three-month gap where JSO will need a sheriff.

Who will be Jacksonville’s next sheriff?

Governor Ron DeSantis is expected to appoint an interim sheriff to serve until a new one can be elected.

“If the Governor appoints one of the candidates, that’s gonna be a whole-nother drama,” Carlucci said.

Carlucci is adamant that pick not be one of the current candidates running for sheriff.

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“I think he should appoint perhaps the undersheriff to that position. He’s not a candidate for sheriff and he’s quite capable of running the ship,” said Carlucci.

Dennis added, appointing a candidate could give them an unfair advantage in the special election.

“They could use the next few months to use the sheriff’s office as a bully pulpit. I mean you’re talking about thousands of officers. You’re talking about a half-a-billion-dollar budget,” said Dennis.

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However, Cumber points out the Governor historically hasn’t appointed candidates to vacant sheriff positions.

“In Clay County and Broward County where there was a gap or he had to appoint, he did appoint someone from FDLE,” said Cumber.

The Governor has issued a statement thanking Sheriff Williams for his service, but has not weighed in on an appointment yet.

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“We thank Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams for his years of service dedicated to serving and protecting the residents of Duval County. We will let you know if or when we have any further updates,” said DeSantis Press Secretary Christina Pushaw.

Like whoever the Governor appoints, the winner of the special election will also essentially be a placeholder.

The victor will still have to win again in March if they hope to serve a full four-year term.

Reaction to Jacksonville sheriff’s retirement announcement

Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry shared the following statement about Williams’ decision to retire:

“I have worked closely with Sheriff Williams for the last seven years through many crucial situations including mass shootings, hurricanes, violent crime initiatives, investing in our children and much more. Mike is always engaged and he’s always involved. He’s given three decades of exceptional service to the people of Jacksonville. I wish him well in retirement and I look forward to working with our next sheriff to continue addressing many of Jacksonville’s most important concerns.”

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Randy Reaves, the president of the local branch of the Fraternal Order of Police, Lodge 5-30, released the following statement:

“Sheriff Williams has maintained the trust and respect of our members during his time in office. His career of service to our community has spanned over 30 years and was exemplary. We wish him and his family well in whatever the future holds, he will truly be missed. Our members will work side by side with the next sheriff to continue making Jacksonville a safer place to live.”

Sheriff Williams’ full letter to the people of Jacksonville

“To the citizens of Jacksonville,

“The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has worked hard over the last seven years to be the professional organization our community deserves. The men and women of JSO care deeply about our community and put their lives on the line everyday to keep us all safe. Your support of JSO is extraordinary and know that it is appreciated by all who serve.

“After some consideration, I have decided that a court battle over my residency would not be good for our community. That being said, I have decided to retire on June 10. I look forward to working with senior staff over the next week to ensure a smooth transition. I’m proud of my 31 years of service to this City and am excited about a new chapter and new challenges. Our community is special and you prove it everyday and it has been my honor to serve as your Sheriff!

“May God bless you and may God continue to bless this great city.

“Sheriff Mike Williams”

Sheriff Retirement

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