In an effort to help you make informed decisions during the General Election, ABC Action News has reached out to dozens of candidates running for office. The following statements have been submitted to ABC Action News by the candidate. Every candidate was given the same set of questions. These are their responses in his/her own words.
Name: Gary Pruitt
Office: Hillsborough County Sheriff
I retired from the City of Tampa Police Department in September 2015, where I served as a sworn law enforcement officer for over 25 years. Throughout my career in law enforcement, I have worked in many different areas of the department, including supervisory, investigative, undercover, and plainclothes assignments. I worked every shift in every district of the department and had the opportunity to work with people from every type of background and economic status.
Why should voters vote for you?
The sheriff’s office needs a forward-thinking leader. I want to bring a much-needed, outside perspective to the good old boys system that’s been running the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office for the past 56 years.
If elected, what are your top priorities?
My top priorities as Sheriff would be diversity, citizens advisory committee, body cameras, and unionization.
What are three key messages of your campaign?
Three of my key messages are community, transparency, and integrity. I want to give the Sheriff’s Office back to the people it’s meant to serve. The people need to know that the sheriff’s office exists to serve them.
What areas of public policy are you personally passionate about?
Labor. Inequality. Criminal justice.
I’m passionate about labor policy, which is one of the reasons I’m fighting for unionization. I believe that workers who are treated well treat the people they serve well. I’m also passionate about inequality, which is something I’d like to help change both through the employment at the Sheriff’s Office and the way the HCSO interacts with the community. As a former police officer with 25 years of experience, criminal justice is another area where I’ve seen a lot of right and wrong. One of the biggest issues we currently face with the prison system is the long sentences given to those with drug charges and the lack of proper help and training former inmates receive as they leave the prison system and return to society.
As it relates to the role you are seeking, how has that governmental body handled the Covid-19 pandemic? What would you do differently/the same in handling both the public health risk and the economic recovery?
The Sheriff made a lot of back and forth decisions about both the curfew and mask policies for the county. While Covid-19 is a serious issue, the citizens should have some say in what policies are going to affect them. I believe the best course of action for a crisis like this is to make decisions early instead of when you’re forced to. This quick decision making might have helped to lessen the impacts.
In the role you are seeking, what will you do to address issues of racism and inequality?
Racism and inequality would be addressed through my priorities of diversity, citizen advisory, and body cameras. A Sheriff’s Office that looks like the community it serves is more likely to serve that community in a respectful, thoughtful way. The citizens advisory committee would help to determine any discriminatory policies before they’re even put into place. Body cameras and in car footage would help to determine cases of law enforcement overstepping boundaries. Even deputy unionization would make it easier for deputies and staff who see something wrong to come forward without fear of being fired just for their criticisms.
What motivates you to run for public office?
I believe that, if elected, I can truly bring a widespread change for the better. I’m motivated only by my want to help the citizens of Hillsborough County -- something that has not been at the forefront of the Sheriff’s Office’s goals for quite some time.