Keys voters elected Capt. Bob Peryam to be the county’s next sheriff, replacing retiring Sheriff Rick Roth.
The vote percentage was Peryam with 48.6 percent, Ken Davis with 44.6 percent — 18,648 to 17,220 — and Sandra Downs with 6.8 percent of the vote, or 2,586 votes.
“I ran on my own merit and I did stick to the high road, nor did I ever lower my standards,” Peryam said.
He also thanked his family and friends on a local television show for their support throughout the race.
“I had overwhelming support from my family and friends. I don’t think there’s anything more humbling,” he said.
The race pitted two career law enforcement officers against one another. Peryam, 53, has been on the sheriff’s office for 27 years and 52-year old Davis has almost 30 years experience as a Drug Enforcement Administration agent and an agent for the U.S. Coast Guard.
Davis took a parting shot at his opponent for not getting more of the vote, despite being a well-known community figure, most recently as the head of the city of Marathon’s police operations.
“He didn’t even get half the vote. That should be a message to him,” Davis said.
Downs, a tree cutting service business owner ran on the platform that her lack of police experience made her the ideal candidate.
But the contest was mainly between Peryam and Davis. A pro-marijuana legalization candidate, Bob Horan, was also running as a write-in candidate, but dropped out in late October. He received 63 write-in votes.
Davis criticized Peryam throughout the race as being too close to Roth and said as sheriff, Peryam would continue to operate the sheriff’s office as it had been run for the last 18 years under Roth.
One of Davis’ biggest complaints about the sheriff’s office is the way it operates its jails. He said county jails should be tougher on inmates, and that they were becoming a place for drug addicts, alcoholics and homeless people to go when they are out of options.
Peryam denied the jails were as cushy as Davis claimed and he said that much of the healthcare offered to inmates was mandated by state and federal law.
Davis also criticized the sheriff’s office for not retaining deputies because of a pay disparity between patrol officers and supervisors.
Peryam acknowledged the recruitment problem and said that he would implement a “hiring local” initiative, making the sheriff’s office a career agency, not a training ground for rookie officers looking to get hired by bigger agencies.