Clay County Sheriff-Elect Cook Installed Into Position Immediately By Governor

Sep 1, 2020

Clay County has its third Sheriff in the past three weeks, after Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appointed Republican Michelle Cook to take on the role, beginning immediately.

“Given the election results in other areas, as we get into January, she'll be the only woman Sheriff out of 67 counties in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said Tuesday at a media conference in the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

This comes a couple weeks after a messy end to the tenure of former Sheriff Darryl Daniels, who is caught up in a criminal investigation and faces a felony charge and three misdemeanors involving a romantic relationship with a previous employee of his. 

DeSantis removed Daniels from office in mid-August and appointed Matt Walsh from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as interim sheriff in the meantime. 

Cook faced Daniels in the Republican primaries on August 18, receiving 37% of the vote to Daniels’ 29%

Related: Clay County Primary Results

She was set to face write-in candidate Francis Bourrie in the November general election, but he withdrew hours after the primary results were announced. 

Cook has worked in law enforcement since 1992, most recently serving as Police Chief of Atlantic Beach, a role she took on in 2017. She also served in multiple leadership roles for the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office.

“Today we are turning a page in the history books of our community, and in our agency,” Cook said.

Cook said she “never had any voice” in the timing of Daniel’s arrest and removal from office, or the write-in candidate who decided to drop out. She said she doesn’t think it will be difficult to leave the recent turmoils the department went through in the past. 

“I think that's easy, because the vast majority of people who go into law enforcement come in to do the right thing, and the men and women who were serving here, even with all the chaos going on all around them, came into work every day and did their job and did the right thing,” Cook said. 

As calls for reallocation of police resources into other areas of communities are being heard  nationwide, Cook said she is willing to listen to those voices locally. 

“A responsible answer is not only talking to the men and women who work here about what we do good, or do we need help, but also going out and talking to the community, and making sure that they understand that I understand what it is they expect and what they need, and then finding that place in the middle where we can we can meet,” she said. 

Cook joins Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell as the only female sheriffs in Florida. Darnell will be replaced by former Florida House Representative Clovis Watson Jr. at the beginning of next year. 

Sky Lebron can be reached at slebron@wjct.org, 904-358-6319 or on Twitter at @SkylerLebron.