Florida's Bradford County sheriff role 'best job in world'

Gordon Smith said being a sheriff was better than being the US president

"It's all about being a servant to the people. If you don't want to be that you don't run for office," says Gordon Smith, sheriff of Florida's Bradford County.

He has held the position for four years and is up for re-election in November, the same month people across England and Wales will elect police and crime commissioners to oversee their police forces.

Like American sheriffs, the commissioners will have ultimate responsibility for law enforcement, crime prevention and police budgets.

They will replace police authorities in 41 areas and will be paid a salary between £65,000 and £100,000.

'Dog chasing car'

Sheriff Smith told BBC Look North he believed the appointment of a single public official, rather than a committee, increases accountability.

He said he thought of the people in his community whenever making decisions.


Ballot papers in American elections are very long. In some states voters even go to the polling station to choose their local tax collector. County Sheriff is just another of the many public roles up for grabs.

It's a job that's existed since the days of the old wild west and depending on where you live is a strange mixture of legal, political and ceremonial duties.

In England and Wales the role of Police Commissioners will be different. They'll be keeping a watchful eye over police forces rather than patrolling the streets, like Sheriff Gordon Smith does in Bradford County. But every four years, just like Sheriff Smith, they will have to face the voters and run for office once again.

There's one other very big difference; outside the Bradford County police station the 10 commandments are engraved on a huge piece of marble. Don't expect to see any of the commissioners elected in Yorkshire taking chisels to blocks of stone outside their headquarters.

"I am a public servant," he said. "A lot of people think they want [the role] until they get it.

"It's kind of like a dog chasing a car, what you going to do when you catch it?"

The sheriff is a familiar figure in the county, which has a population of about 28,000.

Meeting and greeting people in their force areas will be more difficult for police and crime commissioners, however, as they will be responsible for areas with populations running into millions.

But Sheriff Smith said getting out in the community he serves was key to re-election.

He said: "You know some people have this old philosophy, I'll kiss your [bottom] until I'm elected and once I'm elected you can kiss mine.

"But to stay elected and be able to stay the sheriff in any county or stay elected in anywhere you're at you have to be involved with the people."

Asked what he would say to the new commissioners in England and Wales, Sheriff Smith said: "It's better than being the president, it's better than being any other job in world.

"There's nothing better than being a sheriff and looking after your people."

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