Stephen takes the oath of office

OKEECHOBEE — After nearly 30 years of wearing a badge, Noel Stephen was officially introduced Tuesday as the new sheriff of Okeechobee County.

After taking his oath of office Tuesday morning, Sheriff Noel Stephen told the large crowd on hand there were many people who “… guided, helped and even kicked me along the way.” He thanked them for their help and thanked his family for their sacrifices so he could pursue his career.

Cory Stephen (left) and Kodi Stephen (right) had the privilege of pinning the sheriff stars on their dad, Noel Stephen, after he took the oath of office Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, to become the 17th sheriff of Okeechobee County.

Sheriff Stephen was sworn into office Jan. 3 by retired Judge William Hendry. Also on hand for the ceremony was retiring sheriff Paul May.

In his closing remarks Mr. May told all of the employees he had planned to give them the rest of the day off. But, he then realized he couldn’t do that any more.

“In my last official appearance as your sheriff I get to introduce the new sheriff. Twelve years ago when I was introduced to you by out-going sheriff O.L. Raulerson Jr., he told me what kind of sheriff’s office I was inheriting and the caliber of the people I would be working with,” said Mr. May. “I will not have to do this today because the new sheriff already knows about the department. He has been instrumental in building it and he’s been here 30 years.

Retired Judge William Hendry (right) administered the oath of office Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, as Noel Stephen (left) was officially sworn-in as the new sheriff of Okeechobee County.

“I believe the man I’m about to introduce today comes into this office the most knowledgeable, the most experienced and the best prepared to be your sheriff of any man or woman who has ever held this office in Okeechobee County.”

He then introduced Sheriff Stephen as the 17th sheriff of Okeechobee County.

“I am very humbled and honored to have been given this trusted position within our community. I do not take it lightly, and I promise to never change who I am and always work hard for my staff and our citizens,” said Sheriff Stephen, as he addressed the large turnout.

In fact, the crowd was so large it took Judge Hendry by surprise. He told them if he’d known the crowd was going to be that large: “I would have worn my Gator socks.”

The new sheriff went on to tell those in attendance he will follow the path paved for him by his predecessors. And, he continued, he vowed to run his office in an operationally sound and fiscally responsible manner.

In accepting the will of the voters, Sheriff Stephen also introduced his new command staff who were all promoted to their new ranks.

Leading that staff is Major Gary Bell, who was promoted from captain of the road patrol division and will now hold the position of chief deputy.

As Sheriff Noel Stephen spoke to the large crowd on hand Tuesday for his swearing-in ceremony, retired-Judge William Hendry (left) and retired-Sheriff Paul May watched.

Other members of the new staff are: Captain Shannon Peterson; Captain Rob Coleman; Lieutenant Randy Thomas; Lieutenant Shane Snyder; Sergeant Rosemary Farless; Sergeant Matt Hurst; Sergeant Don Ellis; Corporal Bryan Lowe; Corporal Marcus Collier; Corporal Kristen Gray; and, Detective Corporal Javier Gonzalez..

Capt. Peterson will now head up the road patrol division, while Capt. Coleman will lead the detective bureau.

Also, Max Waldron and Heath Hughes have been promoted from road patrol to the detective bureau.


As his last official act as sheriff of Okeechobee County, Paul May officially introduced Tuesday, Jan. 3, Noel Stephen as the new sheriff. Mr. May is retiring after 12 years at the helm of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office color guard presented the colors Tuesday morning, Jan. 3, as a large crowd was on hand to hear Noel Stephen take the oath of office as the new sheriff of Okeechobee County. Okeechobee News/Eric Kopp.

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