“Some Florida legislators are putting forth a bill in the Senate and the House that will prevent school officials from reporting crimes at schools to local law enforcement…”
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“As an example, if this bill were to become law, a 17-year-old boy who assaulted and battered a 12-year-old girl would not be able to be arrested or prosecuted for his crimes, nor would school officials even be allowed to contact the police…”
What’s not to admire about Sheriff Jack Parker? He has an infectious enthusiasm about the community, loves his job and co-workers and enjoys the great outdoors with his family. He has the kind of outlook and motivation that makes you feel good about being a part of Brevard County. Being in the business of public service, Parker takes his organization’s mission seriously, which includes “Building Community and Professional Partnerships,” and firmly believes that his job creates a quality community, which attracts new businesses and families to the area.
The centricity of law enforcement’s role in creating a positive and safe environment is a perspective that everyone on the Space Coast agrees with. And caring for a county that spans over seventy miles and has large unincorporated areas where the Sheriff’s Department has responsibility and jurisdiction, which includes all of Merritt Island and Viera, is no small task. Juggling his responsibilities as a community leader, a law enforcement officer, a business executive managing nearly 1,200 employees and 100 volunteers, with a budget of $107 million, in addition to being an elected official, Parker has made – and continues to make – his mark on the county he loves.
Practically a Native
Parker’s family moved to Cocoa Beach when he was eight years old by way of New Jersey and New York City. When reflecting on growing up in Florida he recalls, “I lived in a house on the canal, had a little boat and loved to fish. It was an absolute contrast to my surroundings in New York. I have always treasured the beauty of living on the Space Coast.”
Elected Sheriff in 2004 and now serving a second term, Parker commands a staff with incredible diversity and specialization, from criminal investigation to corrections. The Sheriff’s Office operations cover five precincts: North patrolling the Titusville/Mims area; East patrolling the northern part of Merritt Island; the Canaveral precinct covers the Port area; and the West and South precincts cover the beaches to Sebastian Inlet and west to the county line.
Parker has worked his way up in the Sheriff’s Department having begun his career as a correctional officer in 1983. Although he did not envision himself being in public safety for 30 years, with no one in his family having been in the profession, he quickly grew to like the work and camaraderie of the organization.
“Every day was different and exciting. What put the exclamation point on my feelings for the department was when I was in a motorcycle accident after just having started my job in 1983. My co-workers rallied behind me to help me get better, giving me encouragement and sick days to cover my time off of work.”
Preparation and Achievement
Impressively, he skipped from the rank of a lieutenant to a major at the age of 26. In, 1989, Parker moved out of the jail into the law enforcement operations in an administrative capacity, first in the north precinct and then the east. Soon he rose to commander in charge of administration.
Parker understands the value of hard work, having obtained his associate’s degree from Brevard Community College and his bachelor’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Central Florida, and certifications from the Law Enforcement, Corrections and Fire Fighting Academies. These efforts served him well during his seven years of service as the Public Safety Director of Brevard County. At the time, this position oversaw 800 employees and included the fire department, lifeguards and probation, community service and pretrial release programs.
Dr. Jim Drake, president of Brevard Community College, recognizes Parker as one of the College’s outstanding alumni and the recipient of the 2008 Distinguished Alumnus Award. ”The faculty, staff and trustees of Brevard Community College are proud of our distinguished alumnus and friend, Sheriff Jack Parker. Personally, I regard Jack Parker as one of the finest public servants in the contemporary history of our county.”
Leadership and Success
Parker attributes his success to surrounding himself with the right people, believing that strong individuals commanding his staff and precincts make for a robust organization. Furthermore, he encourages input from those in leadership positions, not just “yes people” confirming his decisions. “I work with people that I would want to work for. We are in the business of serving others so I want leaders who put other peoples’ needs before themselves.”
Parker does not boast statistics or numbers when talking about his department. He wants the community to feel that they are treated justly, with trust and respect. “We are not successful based on the numbers of tickets we write or prisoners we lock up. We determine our success on how the community feels about us and what we do to make a difference in other people’s lives.”
Although Parker does not have a specific mentor that stands out, he considers himself fortunate to have observed a number of professional leaders. “Management style affects results. From simple observation, I learned a lot from the bad ones, as well as from the good ones. I have seen the impact of a threatening message and a positive message.” As you can imagine, Parker is a strong proponent of positive communication. “In my experience, I have found that superiors who have a passion for the job, who are able to communicate what needs to happen and are supportive of their team are a lot more effective.”
Furthermore, Parker believes that what you say and do as a manager is very meaningful. Often, he says, “One doesn’t realize the power of their position and you can, in fact, become numb to it,” therefore, he recommends never underestimating your influence in a leadership position.
More than Law and Order
In an ongoing effort to be an integral part of the community, Parker serves a number of charities through volunteer service and board leadership. His longest relationship has been with Crosswinds Youth Service, started by psychologist Dr. Robert Lehton in the early 70’s when the bodies of several youth runaways were discovered. Beginning as a shelter for runaways, the organization now offers a variety of other services and Parker serves as a board member.
“The United Way is able to reach such a large number of people in our community so I have a special affinity for its impact,” commented Parker. “We see a lot of good things in our community. Constantly, people are helping people and often rise to the occasion when needs present themselves.”
Howard L. Lance, chairman, president and CEO for Harris Corporation, has served on the United Way Board with Parker. Lance remarked, “Sheriff Jack Parker has made huge contributions to Brevard County and its residents over his many years of dedicated public service. Not only has his leadership resulted in major advancements in law enforcement and reduction in local crime rates, he has also raised the bar in support of essential community services organizations such as the United Way.”
When Parker first served the United Way as the office fundraising coordinator for the Sheriff’s department, he was surprised to learn that it ranked 67 out of 67 counties in all of Florida for financial giving at $20,000. The department is now in first place for all sheriff departments in the state having raised $129,000 last year.
As a board member, Parker is hopeful that the Boys and Girls Club of Brevard County will be able to expand its efforts. There are currently two clubs in Brevard – one in Melbourne and one in Mims – both of which positively serve the youth in the area. It is Parker’s desire to see more clubs in the area.
Proactive Not Reactive
“We have to do everything we can to help the nonprofits in our community and encourage public service within the Sheriff’s Office,” Parker added. He believes that by being involved in assisting various agencies serving the community his department can be more proactive and less reactive.
Honoring his organization’s mission statement to the letter, Parker wants people to love living and working here as much as he does. Protecting the citizens of Brevard County and removing people from our community who do harm is paramount.
There are no term limits for the office of Sheriff in the state of Florida, but when asked if he will seek reelection Parker said, “Life is short so I seek to do the best I can every day. I have a lot of faith and so I believe God will place me where he wants me to be.”
1983 Hired by Sheriff’s Office as a Corrections Officer (at 20 years of age)
1983 Graduates from Corrections Academy – BCC
1984 Promoted to Field Training Officer
1985 Promoted to Corporal
1986 Earns AA degree, Brevard Community College
1986 Promoted to Sergeant (at 23 years of age)
1987 Selected as Jail Special Response Team Commander
1989 Earns BA degree, Public Administration, University of Central Florida
1989 Promoted to Major, Asst. Jail Commander (at 26 years of age)
1991 Graduates from Police Academy – Orlando
1991 Transferred to Law Enforcement Services as Major
1992 Transferred to Patrol as Major
1995 Selected as Law Enforcement Officer of the Year
1996 Promoted to Commander (at 33 years of age)
1996 Selected as “Outstanding Board Member of the Year” for the Southeast United States for service with Crosswinds Youth Services
1997 Transferred to Jail Commander
1997 Selected by Board of County Commissioners as Brevard County’s “Director of Public Safety”
1997 Graduates from the Firefighting Academy – Orlando
1998 Recognized with United Way’s Campaign Achievement Award
2001 Selected as “Brevard’s Best” as Director with Brevard County
2004 Elected Sheriff of Brevard County (at 42 years of age)
2005 Receives Outstanding Service Award – Brevard Schools Foundation
2005 Receives Life Saving Award
2007 Receives Quality Floridian Award from Congressman Posey
2007 Selected as the Distinguished Alumnus of Brevard Community College
2008 Re-elected Sheriff of Brevard County
2009 Receives Spirit of Achievement Award – Junior Achievement
2009 Selected as Boy Scout’s Golden Eagle Honoree
2010 Recognized among the “100 Most Powerful People on the Space Coast” by Spacecoast Business magazine
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n.b. Merillion: Sheriff Parker’s qualities are the same qualities I want in an American President, and the following quote from the article is especially relevant:
“Furthermore, [Jack] encourages input from those in leadership positions, not just ‘yes people’ confirming his decisions. ‘I work with people that I would want to work for. We are in the business of serving others so I want leaders who put other peoples’ needs before themselves.“