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Meet Suwannee County's New Sheriff

Posted at 6:10 PM, Jan 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-09 15:50:46-05

LIVE OAK, FL (WTXL) -- Suwannee County has a new sheriff after more than a decade.

Sam St. John was sworn in January 3, succeeding Tony Cameron, who was elected in 2004.

St. John said it's been a busy start to his term, but he's confident in his vision for the future of the department.

"I am capable of being their next sheriff, and I'm going to strive to do the very best job I can for the people of Suwannee County," St. John said.

St. John grew up wanting to be an officer, working for the sheriff's office after high school.

"You see all the cop shows on TV with all the glory and so forth that they went through," he said. "It enticed me, and something I got interested in."

It's now been 36 years with the department. After Cameron announced his retirement, St. John successfully ran for the top spot.

"It was a long 11 months, you know," St. John said. "It was just a lot of hard work."

St. John said better equipment and training are priorities. He's getting dash cams for a few patrol cars -- and in the process of finding funding for body cameras. He said his officers should be prepared for anything.

"When the citizens call about whatever complaint they have, I want to have a well-trained officer out there and be able to solve their problem," he said.

St. John wants to create a traffic unit, pointing to nearly 20 traffic fatalities in the county last year. The goal of the unit is to encourage safer and slower driving.

"Just getting out there and being seen and being proactive working the traffic that, I think, will make a difference out there," he said.

St. John is taking office as people protest the Sabal Trail Pipeline. The sheriff said he wants all involved to be safe but warns against breaking the law.

"Enough personnel and transport vehicles to take them to our county jail," said St. John. "That's the last thing I want to happen."

Though there are several challenges for St. John, he said he's grateful for the chance to lead, thanking the voters of Suwannee County for choosing him as sheriff.

St. John will serve as sheriff through the end of 2020. He recently created a Facebook page for his office in an effort to be more available to the community.