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Saturday, Dec 20, 2014
Tom Jackson Columns

Jackson: Chief deputy's retirement reveals gap in our cynicism

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So, Brian Head, brandishing the most impressive pair of paws this side of Glacier National Park and a Saharan sense of humor, thumbs the pause button on his career and an entire county anticipates the telltale thud of the other shoe.

We get that. After all, Head, a bright fellow with 27 unblemished years in law enforcement, was - is, until the end of the paperwork shuffle - the No. 2 guy at the Pasco County Sheriff's Office. At 48, not only was he pulling down more than $125,000 a year, he was on the threshold of what, pre-crash, we quaintly called his "prime earning years."

Moreover, he was about a year into the state's five-year deferred-retirement option plan, or DROP, that, if pursued to completion, would have plumped up his golden years nest egg by about the price of a Smoky Mountains starter cabin. And at 53, he'd still have been a young fellow, actuarially speaking.

On the face of it, then, we have to figure something's up, right? Who thumps away from the prestige of high rank and a guaranteed financial windfall unless there's something nefarious going on behind the curtain? Let's ask Maurice Radford and Kim Bogart. You'll find them filed under Disgruntled Former Command Staff/Failed Candidates for Sheriff.

We cup our collective ear, listening for confirmation of our history-rooted cynicism, forgetting that Head - once a finalist to succeed Bob White, who retired mid-term in April 2011 - rallied to Sheriff Chris Nocco's side throughout last year's campaign.

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So far, crickets, suggesting Head's public loyalty was not just a show.

Even the LEOaffairs.com message board, usually a lively (if dubious) source of rumor and innuendo, lacks a remotely plausible scenario. Unless you count Head's anonymous anointment as a dark-horse candidate for Pasco tax collector. Believing that would require resetting our bar from plausible to "fantasy."

Maybe, on the other hand, Head is the rare public official who can be taken at his word. Maybe when he says, "Sometimes the numbers just make sense," his formula includes factors beyond cold finances.

Here's a number: 56 percent. That's the portion of Head's life he's spent wearing a badge. And when you're part of the command staff, you never take it off. Not really. Not at the end of the day. Not on weekends. Not even when you're on vacation tracking bears in the Canadian wilderness, which is where Head was when his epiphany arrived.

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This is not to suggest, at 48, Brian Head is not at least a little middle-age crazy. If he is, good for him.

But it doesn't mean he's certifiable, either. As proof of Head's thoughtful examination of his circumstances, we turn to his utterly rational email:

"Right now, I want to take time to relax. I am under no pressure to get another job. I am an avid hunter and fisher who just returned from a Canadian black bear hunt. My immediate plans are to devote this hunting season to myself and enjoy the woods from a tree stand. I will have no obligations or critical incidents to deal with. I am sure I will do something else in the future."

In short, the man appears to want what college kids take for granted: a gap year - 12 months, give or take a semester or so - to let things settle, to let the world chart its course without his hand anywhere near the tiller. If that's what this is about, good on him. At least he waited until he knew how to make the most of it.

All of us should be so wise and so bold, not to mention so prudently situated. Being just a little bit crazy isn't as easy as it looks.

tjackson@tampatrib.com

(813) 371-1851

www.Facebook.com/TomJacksonTribune

Twitter: @tjacksonTBO

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