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Sheriff won’t seek re-election; Flowers, Rosell quickly in race

Photo: Sheriff Deryl Loar

Deryl Loar will be 53 years old when his third and final term as Indian River County’s sheriff expires in January 2021 – young enough to pursue other opportunities as he embarks on the next phase of his life after leaving the sheriff’s office.

“I’ve gotten a few calls about things I’ll consider doing when I’m finished here,” Loar said Monday, shortly after the sheriff’s office released a statement announcing that he would not seek re-election to a fourth term.

“I’m not going to retire at 53 and go sit on the couch,” he added. “Financially, I should be fine, but I have to do something. There are opportunities out there, and I’ve got to see which one fits best.

“It’s going to be exciting to see what happens, but it’s too soon to say what I’m going to do.”

It wasn’t too soon, though, for Loar to say he might not be done with politics, leaving open the possibility he would either run for another elected office – beyond the county level – or serve as a political appointee.

“I’m certainly not going to rule that out,” Loar said. “I already have a very good political team around me, if that’s the way I want to go, and I love state government. But I’m also looking at the private sector, and there might even be something else in law enforcement.

“Anything I do would have to wait 19 months,” he added. “I’m not leaving early.”

Loar, 51, has spent the past 30 years in law enforcement, putting in 20 years with the Florida Highway Patrol before winning the sheriff’s race here in 2008.

In his statement, Loar said he was “especially proud to have successfully led this agency through one of the worst economic downturns in decades” and to oversee a wave of “innovative advancements” in criminal justice, including the creation of mental health court and addition of a Homeland Security Section.

He also cited state accreditation and professional recognition earned by different aspects of the agency.

“There are only 67 sheriff’s offices in the state, and I’d put our group in the top 10 percent in terms of qualifications and track record,” Loar said. “I feel like a coach who has developed a heck of a team of young people, and we’ve got talented people in different positions.

“I’ve also groomed several of them to be ready to lead.”

Heading that group is Maj. Eric Flowers, who, with Loar’s enthusiastic endorsement, announced Monday he was running to succeed his boss as sheriff.

Loar described Flowers, 39, as a “smart young man who has been with me every day, making serious decisions” – someone who has been preparing for the job for more than five years.

He said he will “push hard” and actively campaign for Flowers, who could face as many as four challengers.

“It’s a huge uphill battle,” Flowers said, adding that he welcomes Loar’s support. “I’m honored and humbled to get his endorsement. He has been a great friend and mentor the past few years.

“In 2012, I told Sheriff Loar that I wanted to replace him when he was ready to step down, and I’m blessed that he was willing to take me in and train me,” he continued. “This is an agency with 500 employees and a $52 million budget, so it’s a big operation, a daunting task. But he got me ready for it.”

One candidate to succeed Loar, however, had less flattering words for the sheriff’s operation as he threw his own hat into the ring Monday.

Indian River Shores Public Safety Chief Rich Rosell, in declaring his candidacy, cited “weak, inexperienced management at the top levels” as his major concern about Loar’s administration.

Except for a year and a half of active duty military service, the 59-year-old Rosell has devoted all of his adult life to professional law enforcement. He retired from the New Jersey State Police at the rank of captain with 27 years of service and held top positions in two other municipalities before being hired on by Indian River Shores in March 2015.

A graduate of the FBI National Academy in 2004, Rosell’s experience in disaster planning and response includes hurricanes Sandy (in New Jersey), plus Matthew, Irma and leading a 140-member task force to New Orleans to assist after Hurricane Katrina.

“The training background I have in both the police service and the military has always allowed me to identify the best practices available, implement them where I see the need and make every place I’ve been better,” Rosell said.

Some members of Loar’s command staff were surprised Monday morning when the sheriff informed them he would not seek re-election.

“I’ve been in law enforcement for three decades, and I’ve been on call since I made corporal with the Highway Patrol in 1992,” Loar said. “That’s a long time to be answering phone calls at all hours of the day and night.

“Sometimes, I can’t believe it’s been 30 years, but this is the right time for me,” he added.

“My youngest will graduate from high school next year, and I’ve worked my tail off, especially as sheriff. My first eight years, I didn’t really take a vacation.

“I’m also leaving on a high note, which isn’t easy in a world where people are so anxious to see somebody fail and point fingers.”

The untimely deaths of two deputies – Garry Chambliss was shot while off duty and Capt. Ryan Haffield suffered a heart attack – in 2017 also took a toll.

So did what Loar called the “political climate,” which he expects to “get nasty,” especially in the 2020 sheriff’s race.

“You have to be a candidate to understand what it’s like and what it does to your family,” Loar said. “It’s not pleasant.”

Staff Writer Lisa Zahner contributed to this story.