INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The election for sheriff is more than a year away, but that didn’t stop four candidates from joining the race early to compete for the county’s top law enforcement seat.
Candidates so far for the 2020 race for Indian River County Sheriff include sheriff’s spokesman Maj. Eric Flowers, retired sheriff’s Captain Charles ‘Chuck’ Kirby, Indian River Shores Public Safety Department Director Rich Rosell and Fellsmere Police Department Chief Keith Touchberry. The last date for anyone to join the race is June 2020, Indian River County Supervisor of Elections Leslie Swan said.
Earlier this month, sheriff Deryl Loar announced that he would not seek re-election after he finishes out his term in January 2021. Loar, who has served Indian River County for about 12 years, endorsed Flowers to become the 11th sheriff to lead the county.
“I am proud of my career that spans twenty years with the Florida Highway Patrol and what will be twelve years here at the Indian River County Sheriff’s Office,” said Loar, 53, in a previous statement.
The election for the next sheriff will be held in 2020, and whoever is chosen will take office in 2021, Swan said.
The four candidates are Republicans, with no Democrats or Third Party applicants currently running, according to the supervisor of elections site. More contenders could possibly join before the deadline.
If all candidates have the same party affiliation by the primary election in August 2020, there will be a universal primary contest. This means whoever is chosen in the Republican primary will become the next sheriff.
But, if two or more new candidates join the race and file as Democrats, then those applicants would be placed on the Democratic ballot. The Democratic candidates would run against each other in the primary, as would the Republican candidates, Swan said.
For the November general election, the Republican contender who was the top vote-getter in the primary would face off against the Democratic winner, Swan said. The four candidates so far have several years of law enforcement experience that could help them manage the sheriff’s seat.
Flowers began working at the sheriff’s office in 2003, according to his campaign site. Flowers has held a variety of positions including being a patrol deputy, a SWAT team member, an honor guard, field training deputy, undercover detective, sex offender trafficking detective, detective sergeant, community affairs sergeant, public affairs lieutenant, and the major of the bureau of administration.
Kirby was a 26-year veteran of the sheriff’s office, according to his Facebook campaign website. Kirby retired as a captain and is certified in both law enforcement and corrections.
Kirby said he served in law enforcement, corrections and sheriff’s administration while employed at the agency. He also served in the U.S. Army as an infantry drill sergeant and retired from the U.S. Coast Guard at the rank of chief warrant officer, after 36 years of combined active duty and reserve military service.
Touchberry has 30 years of law enforcement experience and has served as police chief for Fellsmere for the past six years, a news release states. The chief joined the Vero Beach Police Department in 1989, where he served as the agency’s first K-9 trainer and also as a SWAT officer and detective sergeant, according to the release and a biography.
Touchberry held the rank of captain and was second in command before he left the police department to become Fellsmere police chief, the release states.
Before becoming director for the Indian River Shores Public Safety Department, Rosell served as a road trooper and undercover narcotics operative with the New Jersey State Police Academy, according to his biography. Rosell also was commander of the drug interdiction unit, where he trained thousands of officers throughout the country and Canada, mostly for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Rosell served 27 years with the New Jersey State Police, where he retired as captain, his biography shows. He is also the former Director of Public Safety for the township of Springfield in New Jersey.
The sheriff’s salary for the fiscal year 2018 through 2019 is $140,432, reports show. The agency’s annual budget for the same time period is $51,900,000.
The sheriff’s office has about 300 to 500 deputies that protect and patrol the unincorporated areas of Indian River County, Flowers said. The agency, which oversees the county jail with 434 inmates, is located at 4055 41st Avenue.