Watson decides against re-election bid

Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. speaks at Wednesday's press conference.
Former Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. at a past press conference.
Photo by Seth Johnson

Alachua County Sheriff Clovis Watson Jr. has announced that he will not seek re-election in 2024.

In a letter to the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) employees sent Tuesday, Watson, who was elected to office in November 2020, explained his decision as stepping aside to move the organization forward.

Watson wrote:

“Over the last few months, I have had the great opportunity to reflect on the last two and one-half years of my time as your Sheriff. We have had some incredible highs and some unfortunate lows, but through it all, we have always found comfort in taking great care of one another.

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“Throughout my many years in leadership, I have learned that while you may find yourself as the head of an organization or entity, sometimes you must make the tough decision to step aside and prepare the organization for new leadership that will continue to advance our agency toward the future. It is an honor to be your Sheriff as I continue to watch the incredible work that each one of you do to ensure that our citizens are well-protected.

“After much prayer and thought, I want to announce to each one of you that I will not be seeking re-election as Sheriff of Alachua County. This decision was not made lightly and I want each one of you to know that I will continue to serve you all with honor and professionalism throughout the rest of my time as your Sheriff.

“I am confident that this agency will continue to grow and develop into a law enforcement agency that others around our great state will look toward as an example.

“I want to thank each one of you for the courageous and dedicated service that you provide to our agency and our citizens. Alachua County is certainly a better place thanks to men and women like each one of you.”

Watson also sent a letter Tuesday to the Alachua County Supervisor of Elections Office stating that he would formally withdraw his re-election bid for the sheriff of Alachua County. He added that he would be returning all donations to the individuals who had contributed to his campaign.

Watson has faced criticism over the last two years for how he handled an internal affairs investigation against three ACSO employees and in his negotiations with the North Central Florida Police Benevolent Association over a contract with ACSO deputies, which was finally approved in July 2022.

Watson defeated Sadie Darnell, who had served as Alachua County Sheriff for 14 years, in an August 2020 primary election. He captured 59% of the vote and ran unopposed in the November 2020 general election.

Prior to being elected sheriff, Watson serve as a Democratic state representative from 2012 to 2020 for the 20th District. He previously worked in the law enforcement field for the city of Alachua and Santa Fe College and also served as the Alachua city manager.

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