SANFORD, Fla. -- In a private ceremony on Monday with public offices closed for the New Year's holiday, longtime Sheriff Don Eslinger carried out his last official duty: He swore in his protege and Chief Deputy Dennis Lemma into office Monday morning.
No pomp and circumstance. No fancy coronation. Just the retiring sheriff, his successor and the new sheriff's wife and two sons.
Lemma, 45, who was automatically elevated to the top law enforcement post when no one else challenged him when qualifying ended last June leading to his swearing-in, was so overwhelmed by the enormity of the torch being passed, that he wrote an ode to Eslinger late Monday night on his own Facebook page as follows:
As I approach the beginning of my term as Sheriff of Seminole County in the next few hours, I reflect upon all of the experiences and opportunities that have been provided to me over my more-than-24-year career. The men and women of this organization have created a culture that believes in challenging the basic assumptions of traditional law-enforcement. I have been so blessed to have worked with what I feel is the finest law-enforcement and corrections professionals in the business. Their trust and confidence in me has been humbling.
I feel so fortunate to have worked under Sheriff Don Eslinger's command and see the difference we can make within our communities by investing on the front end. He would often remind us that the most significant thing that we can do about crime is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. This focus has been, and will continue to be, our plan moving forward. He has protected our communities and neighborhoods and his vision is responsible for the crime rate being at historic lows. He provided members of our organization with comfort and stability while truly empowering us to make a difference. Not just during his 26 years as our sheriff, but rather his nearly four decades of service to the citizens of Seminole County.
I will forever be grateful for the mentorship he has provided me personally and we all pledge to carry on his legacy as he transitions from his full-time role within our organization. He has left us, citizens and members of the organization alike, with a team of the most qualified and competent criminal justice professionals in the business. Whether it's his advocacy for youth, mental health, or protecting our most vulnerable populations, he has always done the right thing. He has taught us all to plan for the unexpected and for what lingers around the corner for tomorrow.
On a personal level, Thank you, Don Eslinger, so much for service to our community and organization and I promise we will all move forward enhancing the quality of life by reducing crime and the fear of crime as we have for nearly a quarter of a century. He will, as he always has, given the credit to the men and women of the organization, but it is only because of our trust and confidence in him as our leader. Sheriff Don Eslinger, You will definitely be missed. THANK YOU!!!!