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Jacksonville's soon-to-be sheriff files to run again in 2023

Jacksonville Sheriff-elect T.K. Waters
Dan Scanlan
Jacksonville Sheriff-elect T.K. Waters

Jacksonville Sheriff-elect T.K. Waters officially takes the oath of office on Sunday, after winning the Nov. 8 special election against Democratic candidate Lakesha Burton.

But before Waters gets his gold star of command in a noon swearing-in ceremony with Chief Judge Mark Mahon, he has already filed to run again for a full four-year-term of sheriff. That election is set for Tuesday, March 21.

Waters becomes the city’s second Black sheriff in modern times and the seventh to hold that office since Consolidation.

Waters says having to jump into reelection mode as he also learns the ropes of being the top cop won't be tough — he's been campaigning for months already and will have "some record to point to."

"I will just work — it's not much different than before," Waters said. "When I am free from here, I'll go out and do what I need to do to make sure we can secure it for the next four years. We have a strong plan in place to make sure we can do that."

Waters and Burton were the front-runners in a five-way special election held Aug. 23 because of the June 10 resignation of former Sheriff Mike Williams, after he violated city charter by living for more than a year in Nassau County. Then-undersheriff Pat Ivey was appointed interim sheriff. Williams, who had more than a year left in his term, is now head of Jacksonville's Florida Department of Law Enforcement operations center.

Waters garnered 46.7% of the primary vote, followed by Burton with 32.8%. They beat former Duval County Schools Police acting director Wayne Clark and former officers Tony Cummings and Ken Jefferson. Since neither Burton nor Waters received 50% plus one vote, they ran again in the Nov. 8 runoff, Waters garnering 55% of that vote to win against Burton.

Ivey will join Waters for the swearing-in Sunday at Bible Believers Baptist Church, where the sheriff-elect says it will be "very surreal." He said he will "make the rounds" on his first day in office on Monday, talking to staff inside and outside the Police Memorial Building.

"I am very excited," Waters said. "I am very honored that the citizens of Jacksonville have committed their trust to me and really, really looking forward to getting busy and getting to work."

Waters, who retired in July as the department's chief of investigations, raised $2.3 million between his campaign and PAC donations as he ran in the special election, versus Burton's $1.7 million-plus in PAC and campaign funds, according to the Duval County Supervisor of Elections. And now he has to fundraise all over again since he holds the sheriff's job only until June 2023, which would have been the end of Williams' term.

That means running the Sheriff's Office as well as running for reelection for the full four-year term almost immediately, with his next primary in four months, he said. That term starts July 1, 2023.

Burton has not announced whether she will run in the sheriff's race again in March. Her campaign manager said the retired Zone 2 assistant chief is "considering many options of how she can best serve Jacksonville."

"T.K.'s continued campaign was expected," Burton's statement says. "Chief Burton hopes that every effort is made to minimize the political rhetoric that has plagued the agency and the city in recent months."

Ivey officially retired prior to his being sworn in as sheriff. His tenure will end when Waters is sworn in, the Sheriff's Office said.

Dan Scanlan is a veteran journalist with almost 40 years as a radio, television and print reporter in the Jacksonville area, as well as years of broadcast work in the Northeast. You can reach Dan at, (904) 607-2770 or on Twitter at @scanlan_dan.