Maj. Chris Nocco Appointed To Replace Sheriff Bob White
Speculation about who would replace retiring Pasco County Sheriff Bob White was ended late last month when Gov. Rick Scott appointed one of White’s top officers, Maj. Chris Nocco, to serve out the remainder of White’s term in office.
Nocco, 35, is a native of Philadelphia who has been with the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) since 2009, most recently serving as head of the department’s Joint Operations Bureau. He was officially sworn in on May 2, and his appointment runs through 2012, which would have been the end of White’s third term. At that point, Nocco will have to run for reelection if he wants to remain in the position.
Nocco comes from a law enforcement background, as his father and several other relatives also served as police officers, and at a press conference announcing his appointment he told reporters that, “It was always a boyhood dream (of mine) to become a police officer.” So, while attending the University of Delaware on a football scholarship, Nocco received his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a Master’s degree in public administration. After graduation, Nocco began working as an officer with the Philadelphia Public Schools police department, and then went on to the Fairfax county (VA.) Police Department before coming to Florida, where he joined the Broward County Sheriff’s Office. That led to a job as a field director with the Republican Party of Florida and then as a staff director for the Florida House of representatives, where he eventually became deputy chief of staff for then-House Speaker (now-U.S. Senator) Marco Rubio, which lasted until Rubio’s term ended in 2008, after which Nocco joined the Florida Highway Patrol as chief of staff.
With his political connections (his wife Bridget is a Republican Party consultant and fund raiser who also served as a lobbyist for the Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp., which Scott ran for 10 years as CEO), Nocco’s appointment was not entirely unexpected. Even though a dozen potential candidates had expressed an interest in taking over for White, who announced in March that he planned to retire in order to spend more time with his family, Nocco was assumed by many to be the frontrunner for the job, especially after it was announced that he was one of three finalists interviewed by Scott and his staff in the week prior to his selection. The other two finalists were Brian Head, who also is a major in the PCSO, and lawyer Kerry O’Connor, a former PCSO employee who left the department in 2003.
Those connections led at least one local politician, former Pasco County Commissioner Michael Cox (a Democrat), to assert that Nocco received the appointment as “political payback,” (although it should be noted that Cox is working with Kim Bogart, a Democrat who has already announced his candidacy for the sheriff’s job in 2012). Nocco, meanwhile, didn’t try to distance himself from his political alliances, which also includes Florida’s next House Speaker Will Weatherford (R-Wesley Chapel), among others. “I’m very blessed to have friends that are in high offices,” he says. “When Tallahassee has money again and they are able to look at different projects in different counties, I think those types of friendships and those types of connections are going to be able to make Pasco a better place and our sheriff’s office a better place.”
In the meantime, however, Nocco says that he isn’t even sure that he wants to run for re-election, preferring to focus on his immediate goals for the department, which include cracking down on so-called “pill mills” (doctors’ offices who too easily give out prescriptions for pain and other medications) in the county and improving safety at schools, while making the PCSO the best department it can be. “We want to create a world-class law enforcement agency, where people look at Pasco County and say, ‘Wow, they do things right,’” he said.