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'There had always been rumors': Candidates weigh in on Sheriff Williams' out-of-county status

Jacksonville 's city attorney now plans to issue his legal opinion on the sheriff's residency no later than Thursday at 2 p.m.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Candidates running to replace term-limited Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams weighed in on recent revelations that he no longer lives in the town he serves. 

Dozens of political contenders in the 2023 elections gathered Tuesday for a bipartisan candidate forum, allowing the community to directly ask them questions.

Sheriff candidates addressed gun violence, building community trust and sheriff accountable. One dominant topic was the fact that Williams moved out of Jacksonville to Nassau County in 2021 -- a fact that those in attendance found disappointing, if not surprising. 

"I just say that there had always been some rumors," said Lakesha Burton, a former Assistant Chief with JSO and head of Jacksonville's Police Athletic League. "So, the fact that he acknowledged that he's moved and he's believing that according to his interpretation of the state law that supersedes the charter. We have to see what the attorneys say and City Council say."

"I'm not surprised, and I hate to say that because I told the folks back in 2019 when I ran for sheriff against Mike Williams... I told him I felt like he was way in over his head," said Dr. Tony Cummings, who lost to Williams in 2015 and 2019.  

"If you're gonna be the watchman of the city and stand on the wall to protect the city, you also must live in the city," said veteran JSO Officer Wayne Clark.

RELATED: Jacksonville City Council president says decision on sheriff will now come Thursday, could be special election

Former JSO Public Information Officer Ken Jefferson also weighed in. "The people of Duval County elected a sheriff to protect and serve them. All 850 square miles of Duval County. He has no jurisdiction in Nassau County," said Jefferson, who has run for sheriff unsuccessfully three times.

Candidate Matthew Nemeth said he would reserve comment until after the city attorney gives his legal opinion. 

JSO Chief of Investigations T.K. Waters, who has been endorsed by Williams, was not in attendance and has not responded to an email request for comment.

RELATED: 'Binding legal opinion' by city attorney on Sheriff Williams and residency controversy expected


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