Family and personal interest
Q: Where did you grow-up and what was it like?
I grew-up in the Bronx, New York, but our family moved to Yonkers; so a lot of my school-aged stuff was in Yonkers, New York. It was a typical suburban community right outside of New York City. I had two sisters, both younger than me. It was a very close-knit Italian family where relatives were very important.
Q: Do you have a favorite sport, or hobby?
Always baseball – my dad actually played in the Yankee System out of high school, just prior to World War II. I kind of passed it on to my son and he started playing T-ball when he was three. I coached him for probably thirteen years and he is now at Coral Springs Christian Academy playing Varsity Baseball as a freshman.
Q: Who has most shaped you as a leader – your mother or your father? Why?
Actually, both – you know, I got two specific things from each of them. One, my mom taught me that we are here to serve, not to be served. And she taught me to always be looking for what you can do for somebody, not what they can do for you. And my dad, he never tried to steer me into one career or another. He was a jeweler. I wanted to be a jeweler and follow in his footsteps, but he kind of stressed to me that that would be a tough business to be in, but he said, “It doesn’t matter, just whatever you decide to do, be the best.”
Q: Where and how did you meet your spouse?
Actually, it was while I was working. I was a sergeant on the midnight shift, and she worked in a 24-hour restaurant. I stopped into the restaurant for a cup of coffee, it was on the night shift probably about two o’clock in the morning and she was the waitress that served me the cup of coffee. We have been married for seventeen years.
Q: What was your motivation to run for public office?
Having been in the Sheriff’s Office for 30 years, it was always looked at as a political position and I wanted to change it to a professional position. It is the first time that a Sheriff had ever come up through the ranks. I was motivated to do it to be able to show that it can be done – that there are very talented people in this organization that have the capability to run it.
Q: To date, is there one accomplishment in your career in law enforcement that you’d like to tell us about?
Being the first sheriff that has ever come up through the ranks, I mean, that is a defining moment for me personally, because it has never happened before. I’m very proud of the fact that I was appointed by the Governor, and successfully ran for election when everybody told me that the odds were against me.
Q: Can you name a key issue, or initiative, that you are currently working on as sheriff?
Well, we are looking at a whole gun violence program. Gun violence in Broward County has increased dramatically. Crimes of violence where guns are used are increasing, so we have put together a whole multifaceted gun violence initiative. One, we have created a squad of detectives that specializes as a fire arms investigations unit; where they will look at every crime that was committed with a gun, not only if it was used in a crime, but also if it was stolen in crime. I want to know, when a gun comes in or we seize a gun, what the history of that gun is. Where did it come from? Who bought it? How did they get it? We are trying to get a history of every single gun that we come across; whether they are found, stolen, or used in a crime.
The second part of this initiative is Gun Stoppers. We started a Gun Stoppers program where people will get a reward if they call Crime Stoppers and tell us about a person that is in illegal possession of a firearm. We are looking for the criminals that are convicted felons, who are in illegal possession of a firearm, or are known to use a firearm.
The third is the technology component. We just implemented some new hardware and software in our crime lab. We now have the ability to catalog and trace shell casings. We have been successful in connecting shootings and non-related shootings to the same gun. So we have been able to connect the crimes and ultimately arrest the suspect. So that whole gun violence initiative is something that I am proud of, and that we are really working hard on.
Q: Can you name a time where your faith was challenged as a public official?
Again, in whether I should do this or not is a question of faith at the time. Does God want me to do this? I asked my pastor, “Look, the Governor has put me in this position; do I accept it, and if I accept it, do I run for the position permanently?” He was very clear, and he told me that the door that God opens, man cannot close; and the door that God closes, man cannot open. God has opened that door to me and I am somewhat obligated to walk through it.
Q: Tell us about the prison ministries program?
Well, I have always said that the Florida Constitution mandates that the sheriff is responsible for the care and custody of inmates in the county, so that is my constitutional responsibility. But I always felt that I answer to a much higher authority than the Florida Constitution. I also think that we have an obligation to make people better when they come out of jail than when they came in.
I don’t think that you can make a person better unless you can also address their spiritual needs. The food, the shelter, the education, those work on their mind, but don’t work on their heart. I think to truly change a person, you have to change their heart.
We are up to 1,700 religious volunteers that come to the jail, and we are doing 265 services a week. Without the Prison Life Program, there would be no way we could meet the challenges of making inmates better people.
Q: Is there a person in American history that you truly admire, or are fascinated by? Why?
Abraham Lincoln, for sure: I read the book called Lincoln on Leadership several times.
When you look at the challenges that he faced and that he prayed a lot and he had a lot of faith in God, even though he didn’t belong to an established denomination. You could tell he was a man of faith. He was a phenomenal leader considering, what he faced.
Please complete the following sentence. The one thing that I would change about Broward County .
Is that we should learn to get along with one another better. Broward County continues to lead the State in hate crimes for the past two years in a row. That is not a designation that we should be proud of.
Born: Bronx, New York, 37 Years in Florida
First job? Military, US Coast Guard.
Favorite movie? I have many. I would say Patton
Last book read? The Yankee Years
Musical preference? Andrea Bocelli
Favorite team? Florida Marlins
Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines? Coast Guard, I was in the Coast Guard for 21 years.
Home church: First Presbyterian Church of Margate
Married: 17 years
Children: One son & two step-children