Capt. Sandy McIver takes over as head of an area that includes Lakewood Ranch.
Sandy McIver didn't need direction in her life, or so she thought.
After wanting a career to help people as a nurse, she had switched direction in 1980 and took a job as a dispatcher for the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office. She found it so interesting she enrolled at the police academy at Sarasota County Technical.
In 1986, she accepted a job with the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
On her second call by herself, though, McIver had to arrest a shoplifter. The rookie deputy placed the man in her car, sat behind the wheel, and then realized she couldn't remember something important.
"I had to ask the guy how to get to the jail," she said. "He laughed about it, and then showed me."
Over the next 34 years, her direction has been a steady course upward.
In March, McIver was promoted to captain and took over command of District 3, which covers more than 600 square miles and includes the greater Lakewood Ranch area, Parrish and rural Myakka City and Duette. She oversees 87 deputies with four more on the way.
She replaces Capt. Bob Mealy, who after four years leading District 3 transferred to the special investigations division. She served the last four years as the District 3 operations lieutenant.
"She and I ran the district," Mealy said. "She is aware of the crime trends."
The two have worked together for a quarter of a century.
"Sandy is very fair and firm and she doesn't mince her words," Mealy said. "She tells the truth.
"As a friend, I can say she is passionate about law enforcement. She is fiercely loyal to her friends and she doesn't want recognition for the work she does behind the scenes. She lives it ... protect and serve."
She takes over District 3 during a pandemic and when law enforcement officers around the nation are being questioned about their tactics and accused of brutality.
"Everything changed," she said. "Not only are you concerned about the safety of the community, but about the safety of the officers (in regards to the coronavirus). We had to give them everything they needed."
As far as the national unrest, McIver said the Manatee County Sheriff's Office has been going down the right path.
"All these guys are professional and they treat people with respect," she said. "If you already are polite, you don't have to take up up to another level."
Mealy said the overall climate is the hot topic right now and McIver will need to navigate it. He said it would be unreasonable to think the Manatee County Sheriff's Office never has had a bad cop.
"But we are blessed with is working with good people," Mealy said. "Nobody hates a bad cop more than good cop."
Mealy said growth will be the toughest issue McIver will face in the long run. He said she will continue to tell her deputies to stay in touch with the community and to be visible by going to community meetings and talking to the residents.
McIver, a Palmetto High graduate who grew up in Ellenton and now lives in Parrish, said a lot of her new post is maintenance because Mealy left District 3 in great shape.
"Still the biggest problem we have is that people are not locking their car doors," she said. "It takes two seconds. Sometimes people think they've locked it and it's not."
The Sheriff's Office has considered splitting District 3 because of its size and because of the growth of Lakewood Ranch, but McIver, who has one son Justin McIver is in the Coast Guard, said she doesn't anticipate any changes for the next years after the pandemic. She explained the county's loss of revenue from tourists could affect that strategy.
"This split still is coming," she said. "I just don't know when."
After McIver talked about her second call ever and needing to ask for direction, she was asked if she remembered her first call in 1986. She told the story of a boy who died after a refrigerator fell off a truck on him.
She has dealt with other tough days over her career.
"That's when you go home and hug your kids," she said.
But even with administrative duties, she still patrols neighborhoods during her "down times."
"It's a young man's game, but I hold my own," she said.
So can she still run down a suspect?
"I don't know about fast," she said. "But I can run."