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Tom Knight hired as CEO of First Step Sarasota

The outgoing sheriff will begin work Jan. 25.

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  • | 7:20 a.m. November 17, 2020
  • Sarasota
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Sheriff Tom Knight will move from enforcement and into the medical sector as CEO and president of First Step of Sarasota Inc

After serving as Sarasota County’s sheriff since 2008, Knight in June announced he would not seek reelection. Rather than seek another role in politics, Knight decided it was time for a change. 

“I just didn’t see an ability to make an impact in politics,” Knight said. “You only get one shot at life to make an impact, and this is an opportunity to do that.” 

In his 34 years of law enforcement, Knight said he’s seen many people’s lives affected by substance abuse and mental illness. 

“Drug addicts and people with mental health issues don’t get healthy in a jail,” he said. 

Throughout his tenure as sheriff, Knight enacted many programs, such as jail recovery pods for inmates who are veterans, who have mental illnesses and those who are struggling from substance abuse. He said he’s looking forward to continuing that work with First Step.

“It’s an opportunity to take an organization and grow it and do something that affects a lot of people,” Knight said. “Most everybody, at some point in time, has been affected by substance abuse or mental illness whether it’s with themselves or a family member.” 

Knight will leave his position as sheriff Jan. 5 and begin at First Step Jan. 25. He will take over the job from interim CEO  Gwen MacKenzie, who is the former CEO of Sarasota Memorial Healthcare System.

“Although we had many excellent candidates, our board voted unanimously to appoint Sheriff Knight,” First Step board chairman Pat Robinson said in a release. “Tom has proven himself as an innovative leader who defies stereotypes and can transform organizations. He also has a genuine love for our community and passion for helping people who need support.”

In his first few months, Knight said he’d like to finalize the consolidation of Coastal with First Step and “ensure there’s good morale within the organization.” 

“We really want to build the organization and make it a regional place where people want to take their loved ones to get healthy,” Knight said. 


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