People First, Mission Follows
To say the past six months have been busy would be an understatement. It’s no secret that I’m tackling the number one problem that I hear every day from our residents – drugs. We are hitting drug dealers and users hard, and we plan to continue this mission. Moreover, depending on the complexity of the case, every available CCSO resource for this mission is evaluated and deployed. To emphasize how important this is to you, our Tactical Impact Unit is working hard every day, along with patrol, detectives, and the SWAT team to ramp up on our drug arrests. I have a zero tolerance for drugs because that is what you wanted us to clean up, and I mean it. So far this year – 90 people have been put in jail on drug charges and we are just getting started.
While everyone has heard what we’ve been doing out in the community and keeping crime low, I want to make sure people know what’s been taking place “in house” with improvements in administration and infrastructure within the agency.
There is no time to really settle in. Crime doesn’t take a break – so I can’t either. I am running full speed during the day with personnel popping in and out of my office or meeting with me out in the community. I’ve also met with thousands of constituents and dozens of community organizations to hear their concerns and answer their questions. In addition, a lot of my time spent at home is in front of my computer reading policies and making changes or combing through personnel files. You heard right. I want to know what each of my directors have done to get them to this point in their careers. In the military, you earn your promotions based on merit and the potential to serve at the next highest level. I have brought that same philosophy to our promotion system within CCSO.
Earlier this year, we re-evaluated our vision, mission and values for our agency to reflect this new philosophy within our organization. Our Vision: Citrus County is the safest community in Florida. Our Mission: Excellence in public safety. Our Values: Integrity, Service above self and Loyalty above all. These pillars now define and guide every single employee of our organization.
Continuing on, I knew changes to our administrative team needed to be done, but I needed to conduct an independent assessment of my team before I made decisions about our future direction. My mission is to make sure the right people are in the right positions. Back in June, we reconstituted the Bureau of Law Enforcement Operations, which is headed up by Major Danny Linhart, a 24-year veteran of CCSO. Major Elena Vitt, a 30-year veteran of our agency, assumed command of the Bureau of Support Operations when Mr. Rob Forlini retired. In addition, we no longer have an Undersheriff position within our agency. These promotions are well deserved, and I know that they will make historic contributions to our mission-set in the years to come.
On October 1st, the Division of Public Safety will dissolve with the departure of Fire Rescue from our agency. With Chief Goodworth’s departure, he will not be replaced. Divisions that he currently oversees will be dispersed between the Bureau of Law Enforcement Operations and the Bureau of Support Operations. At that time, Logistics will also be renamed to Purchasing and will move under our Finance Division. This will allow my Finance Division Director to analyze what was functioning well and what we can do better in terms of purchasing. There will definitely be more transparency now that purchasing is under our Finance Division. It just makes sense. In total, with all of these changes that have taken place, five positions will be eliminated and will not be filled by administrative personnel.
Leadership has always been an important fixture in my life. I wanted to pass on my tenacity for what being a leader is all about to my staff. Command staff meetings are now held every week. This affords an opportunity for all commanders and direct reports to collaboratively work on agency priorities. In addition, the command staff was brought into the budget process for the first time this year. Division directors are now held accountable for their portion of the budget including expenditures, overages, transfers and reductions. Currently, we have 318 policies, and some do not apply because of the changes in statute or best practices in law enforcement operations. Consequently, I have tasked each division commander to read and review every single policy in his or her division. This will result in efficiencies and savings right away.
Additionally, every single person on my Command Staff has signed a Leadership Contract. The key elements are that leadership is a decision, leadership is an obligation, leadership is hard work and leadership is a community. They have made a commitment to not only this agency but also to the residents we serve. They have chosen to be accountable leaders and understand their obligations within their divisions. I want to instill a sense of pride in our people. I want them to enjoy where they work and what they do, but I also want them to know that you, the citizens of Citrus County, are holding us all accountable.
For the first time, we are recognizing employees and first responders for years of service and achievements throughout the year, every month, not just once every year during an awards ceremony. These small ceremonies have already begun and I hope that employees of this agency are now noticing that I notice them and the work they do day in and day out. We will have more on this subject in the very near future.
When it comes to new hires, I am personally meeting with every single new employee. They have been through training and know policies and statutes, but meeting with them face to face forces them to understand what my expectations are and if they are truly making this commitment for the right reasons.
With improvements in administration and infrastructure, the ultimate result will be improvements in employee morale and the quality of service residents and visitors to our community encounter. If I can lead the Sheriff’s office with a long-term vision of how deputies will perform later on in their career, our agency should be able to recruit, train and retain people who are in a better position to serve the community.
I have also tasked my command staff to look for no-cost and low-cost training opportunities to round out the professional development of our key leaders and those emerging leaders who will assume tougher roles in the future. During the transition and realignment of our Training Division to our Education and Professional Standards Division, we worked to identify more training for our non-sworn personnel. In the past, training efforts have always been geared towards our deputies, but I wanted to make sure we were supporting and molding our civilian employees as well. Since January, dozens of civilian employees have taken advantage of Skill Sets online training programs, which include everything from Excel and budgeting to public speaking. These programs, equivalent to college classes, are supplied to law enforcement at a lower negotiated rate to save money. In the future, we are looking at even more opportunities, including offering free firearm safety courses to civilian employees and their families.
As we prepare for next week’s budget hearing, before the Board of County Commissioners, I want you to know that I am bringing the full force of my in-depth professional experience to every aspect of this job to better serve you. In less than six months, we have proposed a comprehensive budget to meet the mission requirements while also addressing the pay disparity among our sworn personnel to close the gaps and retain our great people for the long haul. For example, based on our current training pay rate, for every deputy that we retain, we save $17,903.96 in training costs. If we are able to keep 25 deputies over the next couple of years because our salaries are more competitive, we could save $447,559.04 in salary training costs. That is why I do not think it is in the taxpayers best interests or a good investment to train deputies right here in Citrus and then turn around and those same deputies go to surrounding counties where they make a better salary. We must always be prepared to meet the mission of excellence in public safety -- which is not negotiable to the citizens of our community -- and we must have the ability to surge our people and our equipment in times of crisis. This pay plan is a final step in the right direction for the present and indicative of just one of the assessments we have conducted to evaluate the way ahead and make us competitive with the counties that are stealing our great employees.
In Summary, we are selfless servants, dedicated to the safety of our community. I need your help so that we can continue to make a difference in Citrus County.
Yours In Service,
Mike Prendergast, Sheriff
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