By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
VOLUSIA COUNTY - Ben Johnson was first elected Sheriff in 2000, and hopes voters will give him four more years at the job.
"I started as a road deputy," he said. "I've worked all over the agency. I grew up in the agency."
Mr. Johnson, a DeLand native, started working as a patrol officer at the Volusia County Sheriff's Office on Oct. 15, 1971, just a few years after his 1968 graduation from DeLand High School. He attended police academy at Daytona Beach Junior College, now Daytona State. He continued his education and holds a criminology degree from Rollins College. He retired from the Sheriff's Office in 1998, and mounted a run for to be the county's top cop when former Sheriff Ed Duff said he was stepping down.
"I'm very proud that since I've been Sheriff violent crime is down 51 percent," Mr. Johnson said.
The overall crime rate in Volusia County has dropped slightly more than 10 percent since 2001. Mr. Johnson said that there are a number of things that have gone into the large crime reduction. For example, he said the Florida Legislature has given the criminal-justice system more options to keep violent criminals incarcerated longer. Additionally, he said that police training has gotten better, and technology is helping deputies and investigators in many ways. However, Mr. Johnson said that taking full advantage of the positive changes in law enforcement requires a deep understanding of the department and the county it serves.
"I have institutional knowledge," he said.
Among other credits, Mr. Johnson is president of the Florida Sheriff's Association. He's also a graduate of the FBI's National Academy.
Mr. Johnson said as Sheriff he's aimed to curb crime, in large part, by curtailing the demand for drugs.
"We've got to get more money into rehabilitation, especially for our younger people," he said.
In addition to working with the Florida Legislature to get additional monies into rehabilitation programs, he's aggressively directed forfeiture funds into them.
"We've put in quite a bit into it every year," Mr. Johnson said.
While the race is non-partisan, Mr. Johnson is a converted Republican. He's single, living in the DeLand area, and has an adult daughter.
"I love being Sheriff," he said. "I enjoy it. I love the people. I love helping people."