“Things are going to change dramatically. It’s going to be a good change,” says Liberty County Sheriff-Elect Nick Finch, 50, of Bristol, who is preparing to take on the county’s top law enforcement position in early January after defeating incumbent Sheriff Donnie Conyers in the Nov. 6 General Election.
At the top of his list is something basic he said the sheriff’s office sorely needs: A personnel policy. “We’re going to immediately institute policies and procedures,” he said. He will start by using the model presented on the Florida Sheriff’s Association website.
He’s not ready to name his staff but acknowledged, “I’m still trying to close a few holes in the work chart.” One thing he is certain of is that he will add a couple more deputies and make some salary changes. Salaries for those at the bottom of the pay scale will go up; salaries for those at the top will go down. “I’ll start road deputies at $30,000 a year,” he said, noting that some are still making only $25,000 a year.
“Instead of having two majors making $65,000 each, I’ll have two captains as chief deputies, who will be paid around $45,000 a year,” he said. He feels that by shifting those salaries, he can afford to fund two more deputy positions.
He wants to seek out any available funding that can help the county, explaining, “We’re one of the poorest counties in the state. I know there’s grant money out there. If we’re not asking for it, other people will.”
He’s been in law enforcement for 30 years in a range of positions both military and civilian, but there’s one thing he’s very aware of: “I’ve never been a sheriff.” He’s already met with the staff of the Florida Sheriffs Association and is making full use of the assistance available from their support staff. On Dec. 2, he will join other newly-elected sheriffs from around the state for a weeklong “sheriffs school” in Tallahassee.
Known as the “New Sheriffs Institute,” the training program will cover a wide range of subjects, including budget management, staff development, the sheriffs’ role in the legislative process and jail services.
One session, called “Keeping the Tarnish off the Badge,” will discuss integrity in the office.
Scheduled speakers will include the FDLE Commissioner, Florida Ethics Commission assistant general council, the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission and the Department of Corrections Deputy Secretary, along with several sheriffs who will serve as presenters as well as panelists.
“I believe the more that people see what we’re going to do, the more they’re going to be pleased,” he said.
He said he knows it will take awhile, but, “I need to get started to see what I have and what I will need.”