"I put it in my mouth and immediately started choking," Colonel Chad Chronister of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office said. He was describing the choking scare he experienced as a child, which happens to be the same moment that he knew he wanted to be in law enforcement.
"I get chills today telling the story. I'm like, that's what I want to do. I want to make a difference in someone's life," he said. Chronister said a neighbor who was a police officer rushed him to the hospital, ultimately saving his life.
Chronister was recently appointed interim sheriff by Governor Rick Scott, with Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee set to officially retire at the end of the month. He said he will run in November of 2018, when voters ultimately decide who will serve out the remaining two years of Gee's term.
Chronister said his hard-working, single mother, as well as his late grandfather who was a World War II veteran have been his biggest influences to always serve others.
He said not to expect a "showy" sheriff.
"I see myself as a roll up your sleeves, get in the front, lead by example, fix what the problem may be kind of sheriff," he said.
One of the biggest problems currently facing the agency is recruitment. Colonel Chronister said the agency is 227 deputies short on the street. At the same time, the population in Hillsborough County is expected to grow by 530,000 people by 2030. He said their recruitment process is stringent.
"Yes, that hurts us, but it's good for us. We want the right fit," he said.
The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office recently starting recruiting through social media, making better us of agency Facebook and YouTube pages.
"I have to get the best candidates, the most professional versions of ourselves in the door here and working. That's my plea to everyone. This is your sheriff's office," he said.
The opioid crisis is also a priority for Col. Chronister. He said they'll make headway through education and targeting dealers.
"Not just hte ones on the street corner, but the ones with prescription pads," he said.
One area where Chronister said the agency is doing it all right already is crime reduction. He said Hillsborough County has seen crime rates decline each year since 2002. That's momentum he intends to build on as interim sheriff, as well as the agency's support of the Boys and Girls Club.
With 25 years in law enforcement already, Chronister said, of course, he could retire, but that goes against what's he's wanted since he was a kid.
"I won't and I wouldn't because I know I can make a difference and I know I can make it better," he said.