1 Upholding Our Mission to Reduce Crime -We have upheld our mission of fighting crime and the fear of crime across Seminole County, and it has never been a safer time to be a resident in unincorporated Seminole County. Over the past three years, we have been successful in reducing the crime rate by more than 20% (as measured by Part I Index Crimes). These are the very things that affect the quality of life we have come to love in Seminole County. Even though our population continues to rapidly grow, we have kept rates at historic lows.
2 Leaders in the Fight Against Opioids -The opioid crisis is taking lives in Seminole County at record rates. We know that combatting this epidemic will take innovative, holistic approaches, and law enforcement working with citizens to help give citizens on the addiction journey their lives back. We have implemented innovative programs at our correctional facility to assist with rehabilitation, and have investigators dedicated to working with overdose victims. We cannot sit back and let this epidemic continue. We are being proactive and innovative, with early results of success.
3 Commitment to Community Policing -We know that community-based relationships are a center point of effective policing. Since the 1990s, our law enforcement activities across Seminole County have been done with a commitment to community policing. We are partnering with people in the areas that we serve to accomplish our mission of reducing crime. We do this by meeting with neighbors, playing games with kids, and participating in activities in their communities as well. This two-way street has helped keep Seminole County safe and it proves that our greatest partners in safety are our citizens.
Interview questions and Lemma’s responses
If elected to this position, and if COVID-19 is still going strong, what would you do to make sure your vision for and effectiveness as a leader for and with the community stays on track and makes a difference?
“First, I think it is important to remind everyone that COVID-19 is very real and that our community should still take the virus very seriously. Seminole County has done a great job following orders and mandates and being neighborly with each other. There will always be pockets of problems, but we address those as they come up to the best of our ability. I am very fortunate to have built relationships with many segments of our community over my 28-year career at the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. Over that nearly three-decade career at the agency, citizens from Seminole County have had the opportunity to get to know me as a law enforcement professional, as well as an individual. A large segment of our community either knows me personally or knows what I believe is best for our community. My re-election campaign is not about me. It is about us. I am running to represent the customs and philosophies that the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office represents. It is about the men and women, of all ranks and positions, that are creating solutions for our community. I am running on our proven track record of community policing, and the services that many other Sheriff’s offices across the state do not provide. Those are things like child protective services, county probation, and running the county’s correctional facility, to name a few. While COVID-19 has impacted my ability to get out to many large groups to discuss these things, it has not slowed down how we are doing these things. The virus, although serious, does not just stop these things from happening. I am hopeful that these relationships that I have built over the past 28-years help people know more about me, my style, and our shared vision for our agency. At the core of that is the mission of reducing crime and the fear of crime. That vision remains the priority, and it is my honor to get to lead the charge. That is what this campaign has always been about.”
What have you been doing that is unique to let voters know who you are and what you are about since campaigning during COVID-19 (mid-March to present)?
“This has no doubt been a challenging time for all candidates to campaign and fundraise. I had a few fundraisers hosted for this re-election campaign before the pandemic affected the Central Florida community. That was a great way to connect with supporters, friends, and to remind them about the great things we have accomplished over the past three years. When the pandemic hit, much of that came to a halt. What I have had to focus on first and foremost is the preparedness and response to the pandemic by the agency. The commitment to serve and protect does not just stop when faced with unprecedented and challenging times. During the virus response, and then the attention on law enforcement agencies across the nation since May, I have needed to find ways to connect with our community – not as a candidate, but as their Sheriff. I have had to remind them that we have plans and relationships in place to make sure that these incidents do not negatively affect our community’s safety and well-being. This means that the majority of what I have had to do for campaigning is sharing information via social media channels, (and through valuable public service interviews like this one). While it does not reach 100% of the community, it provides a great opportunity to inform citizens of things going on in the community, and oftentimes, those are important issues for voters to evaluate.”
What has been a highlight during your experience running for this position?
“It has been wonderful to continue to hear the stories people often share with me about their positive interactions with the members of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office. As sheriff, citizens frequently share stories, or their thoughts with you, which is such an important thing for me. It helps me hear more directly from our community what is impacting them the most. However, when I am reminded about the quality of work, the professionalism, or the way that a member of the SCSO (at all ranks) helped someone with a problem, it is an incredibly rewarding experience – and serves as a reminder that our organization positively impacts lives every day.”
What do you see as the greatest challenge facing this district?
“I remained concerned about the outcomes of the COVID-19 pandemic in our community. Ultimately, we will see more than just the health impact, and the financial impact, but many professionals suggest we will see an unprecedented need for mental health services as people cope with the social isolation, personal finances, etc. This is something that I have been speaking about for several weeks now. Additionally, the SCSO has been the leader in addressing the opioid epidemic and creating innovative solutions to help those suffering from opioid use disorder. I was honored to be selected by Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody in January 2019 to lead a statewide panel on opioid addiction. Opioid use is still a major concern, and it has not “gone away” because of the pandemic. We cannot let up on finding solutions, as we recognize that those suffering from dependency will frequently commit other crimes just to feed their addiction.”
What is your #1 hope for Seminole County that you would love to make a reality if elected?
“Seminole County is blessed to currently have the lowest crime rate in the county’s 107-year history. That is because of the partnership that the SCSO has with our local municipal police departments, and equally as important, the partnerships and trust that we have with our communities. Over the past three years alone, we have experienced a 23% reduction in crime. The SCSO has been a community-policing agency for three decades, and we have emphasized these relationships because we know it is the right thing to do. While so many other communities in our state, and across our nation, are experiencing anti-law enforcement sentiment, it is my hope that we will only continue to enhance the relationships that we already have, and that we will build new ones at the same time.”
What would you like to say to voters who have not decided who they will vote for yet?
“My campaign to be re-elected your Sheriff will be on the general election ballot in November. Our team will continue to educate the public on the great work that we have already accomplished in the past few years. The members of the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office, and the work that they do every day, serve as advocates for our successes. The innovative programs and services that we offer in the community, in our correctional facility, and for our agency members are important to continue to educate the community on. I remain focused on November, but would also encourage everyone to do their research on the candidates on the August primary ballot.”