By Kyle LoJacono
The newly appointed Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco isn’t wasting any time when it comes to leading the department.
So when questions about any potential political run for the position comes up, he quickly redirects the conversation.
“Right now my main goal is to lead this department,” Nocco, 35, said. “I could say I want to run for the position in 2012, but that takes away from the real goals we have. Anything that takes away from that is something I’m not interested in.”
Two priorities rise to the top of Nocco’s list.
“I was a street cop and I still see myself as a street cop,” Nocco said. “I have the philosophy that our people on the street need to have the confidence to do their job, and I will support them as long as they are following the law. I want them to know that I’m behind them.
“My other main priority is putting bad people behind the bars at the Land O’ Lakes jail,” Nocco continued. “I believe strongly those people should be arrested and locked up. If the people committing crimes are behind bars, then this whole area will be safer for everyone.”
Nocco, an Odessa resident, has worked with the sheriff’s office the last two years, where he held the rank of major and has overseen the law enforcement elements of the department. He was appointed by Gov. Rick Scott to replace Bob White, who retired the post April 30 during his third term.
Nocco was one of three finalists for the position. Fellow Pasco Sheriff’s Office Maj. Brian Head and local lawyer Kerry O’ Connor were the others.
Scott called Nocco the morning of April 28 to inform him he was the next sheriff.
“I was a little shocked and surprised,” Nocco said. “I wanted the opportunity to lead the department, and I wondered what I would do if I had the chance.”
During his pondering, Nocco realized protecting Pasco’s citizens goes farther than just law enforcement.
“I was with the police department just across the river from Washington D.C. during 9/11 and the D.C. sniper in the 1990s,” Nocco said. “That taught me we need to prepare for anything, whether that’s a natural disaster, crime or something else.”
While being prepared for anything, Nocco wants to look at how to maximize the use of the department’s resources.
“People should see us as a squared away and well-run office,” Nocco said. “What’s very important is finding the most efficient way to build a world-class law enforcement office.”
Nocco will complete White’s term as the sheriff, which ends in 2012. He said he respects the work White has done to build a strong foundation in making the agency he envisions.
Nocco grew up in what he described as a blue collar Philadelphia neighborhood. His father James is a retired captain from the Philadelphia Police Department and Nocco developed a respect for public service at a young age.
“Our neighbors were police officers, firefighters, construction workers. The people who made the community work and also the people who were our sports coaches, volunteers and leaders,” Nocco said.
Nocco started working in law enforcement in 1999. He moved to Florida in 2003 and has worked with the Florida Highway Patrol. He was also deputy chief of staff for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio when Rubio was Florida Speaker of the House.
State Rep. Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said he has worked with Nocco and believes Scott made right selection for the sheriff.
“We have known each other for years and he is a very good man,” Weatherford said. “He has the right mindset and skills to get the job done.”
Weatherford also praised White for his, “years of honorable service to Pasco County.”
Nocco said he believes the role of every law enforcement officer does not stop with their paid duties, but extends into community service. He is a member of Our Lady of the Rosary’s chapter of the Knights of Columbus, a faith-based organization that supports people and families in need. He is also a volunteer soccer coach at the YMCA in Trinity.
Nocco and his wife Bridget have three children. His two sons Alex and Xavier are ages 4 and 3, respectively, while daughter Gabriella is 20 months.
Mark S says
Keep up the good work, boss. We all like your style.