Lawman A.J. ’Tony’ Smith will use his 36 years of law enforcement experience to protect seniors and families, bust drug dealers, and take crime-fighting and customer service to a new level in Franklin County.

A resident of Apalachicola, Smith was raised in Franklin County, where his parents, Bill and Leah Brown, operated the Anchor Motel, now the site of Burger King, Ace Hardware, and Gulfside IGA. He graduated from Apalachicola High, less than a mile from where he now lives on Sixth Street.

“I played and fished all over Franklin County as a child. I worked at the old Franklin County Jail, which wasn't much but we didn't need much back then,” recalled Smith.

Smith started his law enforcement career with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in 1980, where he served eight years and rose to the rank of lieutenant. Since then, he has gained over 36 years of experience serving — and holding positions of leadership — with some of the state’s most modern and sophisticated law enforcement agencies.

Smith’s distinguished career includes serving as chief of law enforcement for the state Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, chief of special operations for the state Fire Marshal’s Office, chief deputy for the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, and detective for the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

With crime on the rise in Franklin County, Smith believes experienced leadership is crucial to the future of public safety.

“I will create a new day for public safety in Franklin County, where professional standards are high, and there is a renewed dedication to serving the people living here,” he said.

Experienced leadership is especially important in the fight against drugs, said Smith. Nearly 50 percent of all arrests by our sheriff’s office are directly related to drugs.

Yet, drugs are readily available here, he said.

Smith’s three-point plan to control drugs includes working directly with schools and teachers to establish education and mentoring programs, and a Sheriff’s Explorer program for our youth. He will establish a drug rehabilitation program and drug court, where the justice system, law enforcement, mental health, social services, and churches work together to help addicted offenders into long-term recovery.

Also, Smith will push for mandatory jail time for those who distribute methamphetamine and heroin.

“I have spent a lifetime successfully fighting crime and protecting families from drugs and the people who sell them,” said Smith. “When dealers come to sell their drugs, I will be here to meet them.”

Smith will increase standards and professionalism through education, advanced training, and mentoring of the deputies now serving in our sheriff’s office. He will make more efficient use of resources, and adopt modern protocols and procedures that are proven to fight crime and improve public safety in today’s challenging times.

“It will be an honor to serve with the brave men and women who serve in our sheriff’s office, and help them to become even better law enforcement professionals,” he said.

Through reorganization, Smith will establish substations on St. George Island and in Lanark Village and Alligator Point, assigning deputies specific to those communities. The 24/7 patrols will control crime, speeding motorists, and deal with the many quality of life issues that arise with the large numbers of visitors we have over the spring and summer months.

The only candidate endorsed by the NRA, Smith is rated “A” by the NRA and Pro-gun by the Unified Sportsmen of Florida.

Smith’s education and certifications include a bachelor’s degree in public administration from Barry University; instructor certification from the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission; advanced law enforcement certification; Chief Executive Seminar, Florida Department of Law Enforcement; supervisor training program, Department of Insurance; and police firearms instructor, National Rifle Association.

Smith served as an adjunct instructor at Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy, chair of the Region XV Law Enforcement Training Committee, and president of the State Law Enforcement Chiefs Association.

Northwest Florida values have shaped Smith’s life. He is a caring parent and grandparent, committed Christian, defender of our Second Amendment rights, and dedicated community supporter and volunteer.

Smith is president of Cops for Kids, board member of Big Bend Hospice, and past program coordinator for Catholic Charities, where since 1999, he has led efforts to donate new bicycles for thousands of underprivileged children at Christmas.

A founding member of Ramp it Up, Smith builds home wheelchair ramps for people in our area who are wheelchair bound or otherwise cannot negotiate steps.

Serving as sheriff in his home county has been Smith’s lifetime goal and is a trust he will not take lightly.

“I will always honor the trust voters place in me, and I will always put the public’s safety first,” said Smith. “I will be there when you need me. I will be the first one through the door and last one out.”

A.J. Smith can be reached at (850) 251-9021.