By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
Office: Volusia County Sheriff
Candidate: Wendell Bradford, 46
VOLUSIA COUNTY - He grew up on the streets of New York City where he could have just as easily entered the gang life. Instead, he became a lawman. Now, Wendell Bradford aims to unseat incumbent Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson. He said the current sheriff has reached creative atrophy and it's time for a change in leadership.
"I want two terms, and I'm done," Mr. Bradford said in a recent interview. "I do believe the sheriff should be no more than two terms."
According to Mr. Bradford, Volusia's top two crime problems are really one.
"The two go together: gangs and drugs," he said. "Right now, gangs are overrunning Volusia County."
Mr. Bradford said the Volusia County Sheriff's Office isn't using many effective tactics in curtailing gangs. He said one of the most effective gang-prevention tools is deceptively rudimentary - more patrolling by law enforcement.
"Gangs go to low coverage areas," he said.
To combat this, Mr. Bradford said, if elected, he'd restructure the Volusia County Sheriff's Office to reduce desk time in favor of patrol time.
Mr. Bradford has been a deputy with the Seminole County Sheriff's Office since 1991. He moved to Deltona in 1993. He was one of five Volusia County Sheriff's candidates in 2000 and garnered about three percent of the vote that year in the primary. After that loss, he focused on his education, getting a bachelor's degree in business administration and a master's in strategic leadership.
He believes his experiences as a youth help him understand how best to encourage young people to stay out of trouble.
"I grew up in New York when cops looked at all kids as troublemakers," he said. "There was no respect. That (experience) has helped me in the success of my career. I treat (everybody) with respect."
Failure, too, taught him something he wants to take to the Volusia County Sheriff's Office. As a previous marriage disintegrated, Mr. Bradford said he didn't seek help or counseling. Home troubles leaked into his professional life at the Seminole County Sheriff's Office, and his work quality, too, crumbled.
"In 1994, I was suspended," he said. That was a 30-day suspension without pay. "I didn't allow myself to reach God and ask for help. I allowed it (home problems to) affect my judgment."
He noted that divorce rates among law-enforcement officers runs as high as 75 percent. Mr. Bradford said he'll promote a culture of candidness at the Sheriff's Office, so deputies feel they can approach supervisors and chaplains about problems, along with seeking counseling without career fear. He said strong families make better deputies.
If elected, Mr. Bradford would be the first black sheriff in Volusia County history.