Sheriff Thomas M. Knight
Incoming CEO, First Step of Sarasota
Former Sheriff of Sarasota County
Chairman of Florida Sheriffs Association Board of Directors
Chairman of Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission
Troop Commander with Florida Highway Patrol
Sheriff Tom Knight has more than 34 years in law enforcement experience across multiple organizations including the Sarasota County, Florida Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Highway Patrol, and the City of Sarasota Police Department. He retired as the 10 th Sheriff of Sarasota County in early 2021 after being elected for three consecutive terms, the latter two without opposition.
As Sheriff, he oversaw a budget of approximately $121 million as well as 1,000 employees and divisions including law enforcement, corrections, court security, and 911/emergency operations. He was the first Florida sheriff to adopt intelligence led policing, which contributed to a nearly 50 percent drop in county’s total crime index. He was one of the first law enforcement executives in the southeastern U.S. to fight opioid pill mills and scrap metal theft with a local ordinance that became a model for subsequent legislation in Florida. He was also the first law enforcement executive in the Southeast to address recidivism and community re-entry for county jail inmates through the creation of addiction recovery, behavioral health and other specialized programs, which reduced recidivism and re-arrests.
Because of his successes in jail operations he was appointed to sit on the Florida Corrections Accreditation Commission for four years, culminating in a position as its chairman in 2017. He was also hired upon his retirement as CEO of First Step, a regional behavioral health and substance abuse treatment organization on Florida’s Gulf coast. Under his leadership the organization is piloting a behavioral health response teams that pairs law enforcement with mental health counselors to help prevent the need for law enforcement to intervene in mental health crises.
Prior to being elected as Sheriff, Knight spent 20 years with the Florida Highway Patrol and a year with the City of Sarasota Police Department after earning his degree in criminology from Florida State University. In addition to a B.S. he holds a graduate certificate in public administration from the University of South Florida.