- January 29, 2020
A retired Sarasota County sheriff's deputy has thrown his name in the ring in the run for Sarasota County sheriff.
Paul Fern, who retired from the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Department K-9 unit in September 2018, filed for candidacy Aug. 13.
Sheriff Tom Knight in June announced he would not seek re-election. He has been sheriff since 2008.
Col. Kurt Hoffman, who served as Knight’s second-in-command, announced his candidacy in late June. Like his opponent, Fern filed to run as a Republican.
A primary election would take place in August, 2020, and the general election -- if someone other than a Republican files -- would take place in November, 2020.
Fern, 53, and his wife own Wings N Weenies on Fruitville Road, but Fern’s resume includes an extensive background in law enforcement.
Fern began working in law enforcement as a high school student, washing and waxing the cars for the Eden Prairie, Minn., police department. He often would go on ride-alongs, and it was then, Fern said, that he fell in love with law enforcement.
In 1995, Fern began work in corrections in Manatee County and soon switched to patrol work for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s office, where he eventually moved into the K-9 unit.
In advance of President George W. Bush's September 2001 visit to Sarasota's Emma E. Booker Elementary School, Fern got to know some of the Secret Service agents on the president's detail. After the World Trade Center was attacked, it was these contacts who helped Fern secure a job as a federal air marshal, based out of Minneapolis.
After working as an air marshal for several years, Fern wanted to return to Sarasota. He again began working for the sheriff’s office in 2011 and remained there until his retirement in 2018.
“I just feel that with my background in law enforcement at the federal level, I’m better suited than an attorney who has had minimal time on the road,” Fern said. “I’m not taking away anything from Kurt, I get along with him, respect him, I just think I’m better suited for the role.”
Although he said he respects his opponent and his former boss, Knight, the need for change at the sheriff’s office is what drew him into the race, he said.
One main change he’d like to institute is the reopening of the South County office for detectives, Fern said. Currently, if a south county resident wants to file a report, they have to drive to the department’s headquarters, located at 6010 Cattleridge Blvd., or a deputy would have to make the drive to meet them.
“People in South County don’t realize they’re being taxed for a service they no longer have,” Fern said. “It’s harmful for the deputies because if they have to go to somebody’s house for a report that the front desk previously could have handled, you have another deputy out on the road without backup.”
Fern said he will announce other issues he would like to address as he begins campaigning.