Before he was a state legislator or an attorney in Tampa, Everett Rice built his career in the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office.
The 67-year-old began his law enforcement career as a deputy at age 23. He worked his way up through the ranks and served as sheriff from 1988 until 2004.
Rice’s current campaign to become Pinellas County sheriff focuses on his long tenure in the sheriff’s office.
Rice will face Interim Sheriff Bob Gualtieri in the Republican primary Aug. 14. The winner will run against independent Greg Pound and Democrat Scott Swope in the November general election.
From Sheriff to State Leadership
In 2004, Rice did not seek re-election because of a campaign promise on a now-defunct law that imposed term limits on the sheriff. Instead, he served a term in the Florida Legislature, and then practiced law with Barry Cohen in Tampa for several years, Rice said.
Rice said he loved being a cop from his first day on the job.
The last time he served as sheriff, "the agency had corruption and incompetence in the sheriff’s office. I cleaned the office up and made it into a professional, respected agency,” Rice said.
During his tenure as sheriff, he merged six municipal police departments into the sheriff's office, including Dunedin and Indian Rocks Beach.
Rice's legislative accomplishments included co-sponsoring the Jessica Lunsford Law on sexual offenders. He also supported the Stop Turning Out Prisoners Act, which says inmates must serve 85 percent of their sentences.
Rice Says He Would Donate His State Pension
Rice announced recently he would not keep his state pension payments should he be elected as sheriff. He earned the pension from his time in the sheriff's office and as a state legislator. Instead, he would donate his monthly pension to the Florida Sheriff’s Youth Ranches, he says.
“I decided after listening to people, even though I spent 35 years earning my pension, it touches a nerve in people when they think a public servant is going to collect a pension and a salary. It is labeled as ‘double dipping.’ So I decided I am not going to keep my pension” if elected, Rice said.
That stand is a reversal from an earlier comment Rice made defending the practice of "double dipping," according to the Tampa Bay Times.
"Really, it's not double dipping because there's got to be a sheriff and the sheriff's got to get paid no matter who it is," Rice said in March, according to the Times.
When asked recently about the apparent position change in an interview with Patch, Rice said he had not “committed” earlier to the pension decision.
Taking Inventory Before Making Changes
Rice acknowledges a leaner sheriff's office budget would mean a different approach to running the office from the last time he served as sheriff.
“I will have to do things smarter and more efficiently,” he said.
Rice proposes making changes by leading from the bottom up.
“I don’t believe in micromanaging. I would give them the authority, responsibility and the tools to do the job and let them do it,” he said.
Rice said he does not yet have a set program for making changes but would spend the first 90 days in office “determining what’s going on and figuring out what needs to be changed.”
A Platform of Proven Leadership
Rice said he is running because hundreds of people have asked him to run.
There’s a “need to restore the morale of the people there. The lack of leadership is causing a lack of morale. The bottom line is I am the best qualified to run. I have been there and done that,” Rice said.
Rice said he is also running because of the way the transition was handled from former Sheriff Jim Coats to Gualtieri. He thinks Gov. Rick Scott should have appointed someone to office who was not considering running for sheriff, Rice said.
Gualtieri defended the way the leadership transition was handled at an April candidate forum as necessary for the $200 million organization.
The Candidate's Background
Rice moved to Florida as a child. He and his wife, Linda, live in Treasure Island. The couple have been married since 1973. They have three children and will have five grandchildren by the end of June.
The Virginia native has an undergraduate degree in criminal justice and a law degree from Stetson University, which he earned while working for the sheriff’s office.
In his free time, he goes kayaking and fishing. An avid bookworm, Rice reads two books per week.