Editor’s Note: This profile story is on a candidate who pre-qualified for the 2020 election for sheriff of Citrus County. He is not on this year's ballot.
Patrick Crippen’s gold sheriff’s star bestowed by then-Citrus County Sheriff Charles Dean hasn’t left his neck in almost 30 years.
“It’s always a piece of home,” Crippen, 52, said in an interview while lifting up his five-year service pin from 1990.
The 18-year law enforcement veteran said it reminds him of a time when, he believes, deputies and the citizens they protect were inseparable and transparent partners working to grow a safer community — a relationship that Crippen contends is lacking today.
“Even though we have grown, we need to get that back,” Crippen said. “The sheriff’s office’s job is to interact with the community as much as possible; they need to be on foot, they need to be in the stores, they need to be talking with residents.”
Crippen hopes to be elected to office in November 2020.
He is running his campaign built on the credo: “‘Citrus County Strong,’” said Crippen, who pre-filed to run earlier in August. “It’s our methodology on how — when I’m at the sheriff’s office, leading the sheriff’s department — we’re going to treat the citizens.
“The sheriff’s office is about public community interaction and providing an environment to the citizens that they know who they’re dealing with.”
Like a quarterly stakeholders meeting, Crippen said, if elected sheriff he and agency officials will meet with different demographic and regional groups to discuss how the sheriff’s office spends tax dollars.
“You hope the person you elect is going to do the right thing for the county, so let’s have a little transparency,” Crippen said. “If you want to look at my books, come on in because I have nothing to hide. All that’s going to do is build trust within the community.”
Crippen said his handling of the budget would focus on trimming out outdated programs and units, and instead support outreach initiatives, employee recruitment, retention and education recruitment, and divisions that better serve veterans, seniors and children.
“I guarantee you that within the first 12 months we’re in office, you will see unbelievable changes that will be good for the deputies and for the citizens,” Crippen said.
The sheriff’s responsibility to safeguard schools is also of paramount importance, said Crippen, who’s an alumnus of Homosassa Elementary School, Crystal River Middle School and Crystal River High School, where he graduated in 1984.
While county, school and sheriff’s officials were able to agree to what Crippen calls “a temporary solution” to strengthen the school resource officer program, Crippen said more cost-effective measures, like teacher-student trainings, can be put in place to fortify schools.
“That’s the minimum, but there’s more that’s got to be done,” Crippen said. “There needs to be a very robust training program for not only the teachers and staff but the students.”
Crippen’s family, which moved from Crippen’s birthplace in Miami, has been in Citrus County for almost 50 years.
With a family history ingrained in aviation and law enforcement, Crippen, who was flying out of the Crystal River Airport at 17 years old, became drawn to find a career that incorporated both his loves for policing and piloting.
He was 18 years old when he joined the now-dissolved Crystal River Police Department in 1987, and switched between that agency and the sheriff’s office before getting hired full time by Dean in late 1989, serving as a deputy pilot until late 1995.
“That’s really where my love was at, but it encompassed the law enforcement end of it as well,” Crippen said, adding he earned several airplane and helicopter flight certifications.
Crippen then spent four years flying choppers for the Marion County Sheriff’s Office. Afterward, he taught incoming pilots for three-and-a-half years as a lieutenant with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
Crippen retired from policing in 2004 and moved to Texas, where he spent almost 15 years overseeing several aviation firms, including Airbus Helicopters and Bell Helicopter.
After his mother died a year-and-a-half ago, Crippen returned to Citrus County to pursue a new role as its sheriff.
“We’re all bound by the commonality of being citizens,” Crippen said. “It’s not about the sheriff’s office, it’s really not. It’s about the citizens and getting what they pay for.”
As things stand to date, Crippen will face off against Sheriff Mike Prendergast and fellow challenger Mike Klyap Jr. during the Republican primary in August 2020.
Contact Chronicle reporter Buster Thompson at 352-564-2916 or firstname.lastname@example.org.