Previous Sheriffs

History of DeSoto County

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DeSoto County came into being in 1887, when Manatee County was divided into DeSoto County and Manatee County.  In 1921, DeSoto County was further divided into Highlands, Glades, Hardee, Charlotte, and DeSoto Counties.

History of The Office of Sheriff

The Office held by the Sheriff has a duty to support, protect and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States of America and the State of Florida, Florida State Constitution and Florida State Statutes, and to provide for the security, safety and well-being of its citizens.
The Sheriff is the Chief Law-Enforcement Officer of a county. The population of the county elects the Sheriff. A Sworn Law Enforcement Officer working for an agency headed by a Sheriff is called a Deputy Sheriff, and is so called because he or she is deputized by the Sheriff to perform the same duties as he or she.
The Sheriff is defined as a “Constitutional Officer” and derives his legal authority from the Constitution of the State of Florida. The Sheriff is vested with the ability to appoint and direct Deputies who will act in his name and office to enforce the appropriate and applicable laws of the State of Florida. Those Deputies of the DeSoto County Sheriff’s Office who are Certified Law Enforcement officers are required to maintain a thorough working knowledge of the laws they enforce and the underlying principals from which they emanate.

Previous Sheriffs

The first Sheriff of DeSoto County was O. H. Dishong in 1887 to 1894. He was followed by F. C. Bethea in 1893 to 1895, A. L. Pearce in 1895 to 1897, O.H. Dishong, 1897 to 1901; L. E. Fielder in 1901 to 1905, A. C. Freeman in 1905 to 1913, J. L. Dishong in 1913 to 1921, J. L. Hampton in 1921 to 1937, J. E. Albritton in 1937 to 1945, T. M. Anderson in 1945 to 1950, Floy Shelfer 11-11-50 to 11-22-50, Lloyd Holton in 1950 to 1965, Floy Shelfer 06-11-65 to 06-30-65, Inez Holton in 1965 to 1966, Frank Cline in 1966 to 1980, Robert A.Thomas in 1981 to 1985, Joseph L. Varnadore in 1985 to 1993, Vernon Keen in 1993 to 2001, John J. "Johnny" Fugate in 2001 to 2005 ,Vernon L. Keen in 2005 to 2009 and William P. "Will" Wise in 2009 to 2017. James F. "Jim" Potter 2017 to present.