Editor’s Note: The Apopka Voice is running a series highlighting several key 2020 election categories and candidates running in the August 18, 2020 primary, and November 3, 2020 election. While not every category of office will be covered, we will be spotlighting candidates running in the following races in Orange County: Sheriff, Property Appraiser, and School Board Member District 7.
For the Orange County Sheriff race, there are six candidates who qualified to run: the incumbent, Orange County Sheriff John Mina, Democratic candidates Andrew Darling, Jose “Joe” Lopez, Eric L. McIntyre, and Darryl B. Sheppard, and Write-in candidate Tim Lucas Adams. Here is a brief snapshot of these candidates’ campaign finances as of August 12, 2020*:
Meet the candidates for Orange County Sheriff
Incumbent, Democratic Candidate:
John Mina: Total contributions received: $342,135.72; Total spent: $317,097.35; Cash on hand: $25,038.37
Andrew Darling: Total contributions received: $42,556.40; Total spent: $36,215.30; Cash on hand: $6,341.10
Jose “Joe” Lopez: Total contributions received: $71,278.17; Total spent: $63,496.11; Cash on hand: $7,782.06
Eric L. McIntyre: Total contributions received: $17,050.65; Total spent: $15,393.44; Cash on hand: $1,657.21
Darryl B. Sheppard: Total contributions received: $10,900.00; Total spent: $0.00; cash on hand: $10,900.00
Tim Lucas Adams: Total contributions received: $100.00; Total spent: $23.00; Cash on hand: $77.00
*Candidates financials were corrected on August 15, 2020 to reflect only contributions and expenses from 2019 – 2020 for the 2020 campaign
We reached out to all of the candidates and requested responses to six interview questions. The incumbent Sheriff Mina, and candidates Darling, McIntyre and Adams provided responses. The order in which the candidates profiles were published was determined by random drawing, resulting in Mina (1st), Adams (2nd), Darling (3rd), and McIntyre (4th).
Who is John Mina?
Sheriff John Mina has dedicated his life to public service. He began by serving his country as a Military Police Officer with the 82nd Airborne Division of the U.S. Army, and then spent nearly 28 years with the Orlando Police Department. Mina rose through the ranks and was appointed Chief of Police in 2014 where he commanded 1,000 sworn and civilian Orlando Police Department personnel and 100 volunteers for more than four years. In November 2018, Orange County voters chose Mina as the 29th elected Sheriff and it has been his honor to serve the community in this role.
Mina’s law enforcement career has been built on strong leadership by example and the ability to effect positive change. He is a trusted face of law enforcement in Central Florida, where crime has decreased, use of force is down and deputy accountability is the standard.
Trust, transparency and community engagement have been the hallmarks of Mina’s leadership style, as seen by his continued and active participatoin in law enforcement associations and on community organization boards. Mina is a member of the Major County Sheriff’s Association, Florida Sheriff’s Association, Central Florida Criminal Justice Association, Florida Police Chief’s Association, Florida SWAT Association, FBI National Academy Associates, and the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force. In addition he is actively serving on the Boards of Directors for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Heart of Florida United Way, Central Florida Crimeline, and the Camaraderie Foundation.
As Sheriff, his priorities are making Orange County an even better and safer place to live, work and visit, building greater connections and trust throughout the community, and ensuring deputies have the best training, equipment and technology available. In 2019, Sheriff Mina returned nearly $1.6 million to the Orange County general fund while overall crime countywide decreased.
Some of Mina’s accomplishments in the last two years are as follows:
- Introduced a new crime lab that features rapid DNA testing; placed a School Resource Deputy in all traditional public schools; built a smarter justice system with community partnerships, a holistic approach to the opioid crisis, and a sharp reduction in juvenile arrests
- Decreased the County’s overall crime rate in 2019
- Hired more than 160 new deputies
- Implemented robust measures to hold deputies to the highest standards of conduct, including: a requirement that all patrol officers wear body cameras; rigorous training in de-escalation tactics, crisis intervention and treating all members of the community with dignity and respect; Use of Force policy that emphasizes deputies’ duty to intervene if they observe an unnecessary or unreasonable use of force
- Enhanced school safety by equipping the Sheriff’s Office intelligence center with real-time access to the 6,000 plus camera feeds in Orange County Public Schools which enables the Sheriff’s Office to respond immediately to threats
- Made mental health a priority for deputies, employees and residents through resources, protection and laying groundwork to launch a Mobile Crises Unit this year
- Equipping all of the County’s deputies with the opioid overdose medication, Narcan, resulting in a 10% reduction in opioid overdoses in Orange County in 2019
- Deputies increased the use of Juvenile Civil Citations in lieu of arrest, and helped continue the downward trend of juvenile arrests in the County that has been decreasing since 2014
- Established community-oriented policing squads, and having deputies, and himself, actively involved with community programs and organizations, including the Orange County Police Athletic League (provides educational and athletic programs to at-risk youth); Teen Academy offered through the Sheriff’s Office (an interactive program that educates students on the functions and responsibilities of the office); “Coffee with a Cop,”; the Dueling Dragons dragon boat racing; mentoring program; teen events; and various community forums and town halls
- Launched the Safe Place Initiative, providing the LGBTQ community with safety information and safe places throughout the County for victims of crime or student bullying
Mina has lived in Orange County for nearly 30 years and cares deeply about this community, and it is why he is running for re-election. The issues that have been a priority to him are what he wants to continue in keeping Orange County safe and moving forward.
Protecting the Community – keeping Orange County safe by bringing state-of-the-art technology to the Sheriff’s office and promoting smart justice policies in our community.
Keep Crime Low – holding his commitment to protect the community and keep crime low by prioritizing the continued hiring of new staff as the population grows, working with municipal and legislative bodies on regional issues, and continue to provide deputies with the best training and technology to protect and serve Orange County
Accountability & Transparency – continue to enhance community trust through emphasis on accountability and transparency, and continued partnership with his nine-member Citizens Advisory Committee that studies agency policies and procedures and provides recommendations for constructive change
School Safety – keeping our children safe by continuing the assigning of school resource deputies to all traditional public schools within our jurisdiction, working with the Orange County School Board, and listening to the community regarding school safety concerns and priorities
Mental Health – Mina understands that mental health is a complex and underfunded issue, which is why he has made it a priority, providing deputies and civilian staff with mental health resources; ensuring that employees who seek mental health assistance will not be stigmatized or prevented from pursuing promotions or job growth; launching a Mobile Crisis Unit which will deploy deputies and mental health professionals to individuals in the community in severe crisis; continually working with the community and nonprofit organizations to ensure mental health remains a priority.
Opiods – leading the fight against opioids by continuing to make sure all County deputies are equipped with Narcan, continually working with the community on innovative and holistic approaches to combat opioid use, assisting with opioid rehabilitation programs, and exploring doubling the amount of Narcan that the deputies carry
Juvenile Crime – Mina believes that youth don’t belong entrenched in the juvenile justice system based on one mistake and plans to continue having deputies use Juvenile Civil Citations in lieu of arrest. While this can’t be done for the more serious crimes, he believes they are a very effective tool in helping to keep kids out of the criminal justice system.
Community Engagement – Community involvement and engagement are vital, as seen through the programs implemented (see above accomplishments) and will continue under Mina’s leadership. He believes that forming relationships with residents is crucial to building trust between law enforcement and the community, and he will remain active in community events, hosting community barbecues and expanding community-oriented policing squads.
Diversity & Inclusion – regardless of an individual’s ethnicity, religion or gender identity, deputies will continue to be trained to treat everyone with respect and dignity; the Sheriff’s Office will continue to work with community groups, businesses, individuals and nonprofit organizations to help ensure Orange County is a place that accepts, respects and celebrates diversity; and they will continue the Safe Place Initiative
Mina is married to his wife, Tracie, and they have two adult sons, Chase and Nicholas.
Interview questions and Mina’s responses
If re-elected to this position, and if COVID-19 is still going strong, what would you do to make sure your vision for and effectiveness as a leader for and with the community stays on track and makes a difference?
“I will continue to lead by example and wear a mask, as well as have my deputies wear a mask. Additionally, we will assist by educating our residents and visitors with all of the executive orders issued by the Mayor regarding social distancing and the wearing of masks. We will continue to assist with testing sites and food distribution sites.”
What have you been doing that is unique to let voters know who you are and what you are about since campaigning during COVID-19 (mid-March to present)?
“I have increased my use of social media as well as participating in several Zoom meetings. I have also participated in four virtual candidate forums and have another three scheduled. I put out a weekly email regarding my campaign to keep voters interested and updated. I have also released numerous endorsements over the past several weeks.”
What has been a highlight during your experience running for this position?
“The highlight has been being the incumbent and having good name recognition.”
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing the Orange County Sheriff’s Office?
“The biggest challenge we face is keeping up with the growth of Orange County and hiring more deputies as some call for the “defunding of the police.”
What is your #1 hope for Orange County that you would love to make a reality if re-elected?
“To continue to reduce and prevent crime. Crime is down this year in Orange County by 19% and violent crime is down by 12%. I would like to see those numbers continue to decrease and keep our residents and visitors safe.”
What would you like to say to voters who have not decided who they will vote for yet?
“I am the only candidate who has been the Chief Executive of the two largest law enforcement agencies in Central Florida. And, the only candidate who has the experience to lead 2500 employees and run an agency that has a 280 million dollar budget. I’m endorsed by all three of our U.S. Congressional Representatives (Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy, Darren Soto), as well as 11 local Mayors to include Mayor Dyer and Mayor Demings. I am a graduate of the FBI National Academy and have 30 years of law enforcement experience. I also served my Country in the U.S. Army and have been a resident of Orange County for 30 years. I have spoken before U.S. Congress and the White House on police related issues. I’m the trusted face of law enforcement in Central Florida and have helped lead this community through crisis.”
U.S. Representatives Val Demings, Stephanie Murphy and Darren Soto; U.S. Senator Bill Nelson; State Senators Linda Stewart and Victor M. Torres Jr.; State Reprepresentatives Kamia Brown, Bruce Antone, and Joy Goff-Marcil; Mayors Jerry Demings (Orange Co.), Buddy Dyer (Orlando), John Rees (Winter Garden), Rusty Johnson (Ocoee), Steve Leary (Winter Park), Dale McDonald (Maitland), Bryan Nelson (Apopka), Kathy Stark (Oakland), John Dowless (Edgewood), and Nick Fouraker (Belle Isle); Sheriffs Dennis Lemma, Russ Gibson, Peyton Grinnell, Mike Chitwood, Jose Averez, Jim O’Brien; Teresa Jacobs (OCPS Board Chair and Former Mayor of Orange Co.); Shaquille O’Neal; and more on his website
About the process: The Apopka Voice emailed the same six questions to all candidates running in the offices and positions outlined above, if their email address was listed. In cases where no email was provided, we left a voicemail requesting their email, and /or sent a message on Facebook requesting it if no phone number was provided. There were a few candidates that provided no contact information at all, or their voice mailbox was full. The response deadline was given equally to all candidates. Biographical information was pulled from the candidates campaign websites and / or Facebook page.