Guest Column: Dedication of Criminal Justice Complex
David B. Shoar, Sheriff
St Johns County, FL
For this month’s column I would like to reflect on a very important ceremony that occurred last month during national Law Enforcement Memorial Week. Last month the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office Criminal Justice Complex was renamed and dedicated in honor of Sheriff Neil J Perry.
On hand for the ceremony were members of Sheriff Perry’s family, his wife Syd, his son Keith and his wife Tammy, his daughter Michele and her husband Doug, his daughter Missy and her husband Art, Neil’s sister Dr. Ione Perry, Neil’s brother Noel and his wife Cindy and Neil’s brother Paul’s wife Mary, Paul passed away few years ago and all of Neil’s many grandchildren and extended family.
The dedication, which resulted from a resolution passed by the St. Johns County Commission last year, was specifically designed to recognize one of St. Augustine’s favorite sons, a friend to us all, a mentor to many and one of the brightest lights that has ever served the noble profession of law enforcement, Sheriff Neil J. Perry.
According to St. Johns County Resolution 2012-175, Sheriff Perry began his law enforcement career as a St. Augustine Police Officer in 1968, becoming a Deputy Sheriff in 1974. He was elected Sheriff in 1984 and was re-elected four times before retiring in 2004. Sheriff Perry also honorably served his Country for thirty-nine years in the armed forces and retired as a Colonel in the Florida National Guard.
It was altogether fitting that we dedicate our criminal justice complex to our friend Neil. Not because it is a sentimental endeavor, but rather because it will serve as a reminder to the generations that come after us what is possible for a man to accomplish who is born into a loving, modest family and who clearly understands, to use Sheriff Perry’s phrase,
“Doing the right things for the right reasons even when no one is watching”.
Though many of us will be forgotten by future generations, last month’s dedication will stand as a strong testament to Sheriff Perry and what he created here on these grounds.
The buildings here were constructed by others. Myself and other former Sheriff’s certainly did our best to meet the demands of our community as we understood them, but Sheriff Perry created the culture here, a culture that endures today, a culture with the right mix of vision and action with only non-negotiable integrity leading the way forward.
I remember after assuming office I told the members of this wonderful agency that I was, metaphorically speaking, entering the house that they built, that Sheriff Perry built, though I and my successors may re-arrange some of the furniture, this is Neil’s house and in my view, it always will be.
Upon assuming office I asked Sheriff Perry what the three most important things were that he wanted me to accomplish during my tenure. Sheriff Perry made three demands and believe me they were demands not requests, the first and most important one was to take care of the people that work here. You see for Neil it was always about others.
Some may view this dedication as a “legacy” and therein lies the irony, the only legacy Neil cared about was taking care of the folks that work here, taking care of our citizens and perpetuating outstanding law enforcement. He didn’t aspire to leave legacies manufactured from steel, concrete and glass he only cared about what others have called “legacies of the heart.”
There were many VIP’s on hand for the dedication, but on that day, the only Very Important Person that we recognized and saluted was Sheriff Neil J. Perry. It was my privilege to be a part of the official dedication of the Neil J Perry Criminal Justice Complex, and, for me personally, Neil will always be the only Sheriff of St. Johns County.
Please feel free to contact me anytime at my e-mail address at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thank you.