Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Son Rises in Manatee County

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

The Son Rises in Manatee County

Article excerpt

COMMENTARY

There will never be another sheriff like Charlie Wells, that's for sure. He smoked cigars and wore cowboy boots and the ever- growing shadow he cast covered the county for more than two decades.

He went from cutting meat at Publix, to making $450 a month as a Florida Highway patrolman, to serving as Bradenton's police chief. He eventually became one of the most influential sheriffs in the state, a run in Manatee County that began in 1984 and lasted over 22 years and six terms.

"There's no job in the state that's equal to being a Florida sheriff,'' Wells said at his 2007 retirement announcement.

To be sure, Charlie Wells' tenure had its share of controversy as well as innovative accomplishment, but nothing he did compares to what took place at 9 a.m. Tuesday. That's when his son, Rick Wells, was

sworn in as Manatee County's sheriff.

"This is bigger,'' Charlie Wells says after being asked to compare his career to his son's crowning moment.

Rick Wells remembers growing up as a young boy and watching his father put on his law enforcement uniform each morning. It became apparent early: One day that would be him, too.

And in some ways he took a similar path as his father to the top. He served as a Florida Highway Patrolman and was Palmetto's police chief before Brad Steube -- whom Rick Wells is replacing -- hired him as No. 2 in command. In some ways, Rick Wells had it tougher than his father. Ascending in the shadow of Charlie Wells, a friend of Gov. Jeb Bush, couldn't have been easy.

"It's such an honor to a have a son track you,'' Charlie Wells says. "I never thought about why he did, I'm just glad that he did. It's such a tribute.''

It is unusual for a Florida county to have a father and a son both serve as sheriff. Charlie Wells says he can think of it happening in only two other places in the state.

Charlie Wells is 72 now, and perhaps he can no longer bench press 350 pounds the way he could as sheriff, but he nonetheless looks fit. …

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