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County Honors Retired Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Bill Lee

Date Added: January 05, 2012 11:00 am

County Honors Retired Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Bill Lee Image

Gary Davidson
Public Information Officer

Immediately upon his election as Volusia County Sheriff in November 2000, Ben Johnson had a monumental decision to make: who to bring in as his Chief Deputy. After all, the selection of his second-in-command would have a big impact on the agency and its personnel and go a long way towards mending political fences and setting the tone for the incoming administration. A big decision, but as it turned out, an easy one for Sheriff Johnson, as he enthusiastically turned to law enforcement veteran and Florida Department of Law Enforcement Special Agent Supervisor Bill Lee. It was a decision that Sheriff Johnson wouldn’t regret, as he and Chief Lee forged a rock-solid administrative team that charted a course of success for the Sheriff’s Office over the next 11 years.

Last month, Lee ended that career that capped off more than 35 years in the law enforcement field. On Thursday Sheriff Johnson and the Volusia County Council took time out to honor Lee for his contributions, wish him well on his retirement and say thanks for a job well done. Another law enforcement veteran, Mike Coffin, has returned to the Sheriff’s Office to fill the post as Sheriff Johnson’s new Chief Deputy. “It was an easy choice for me,” an emotional Sheriff Johnson told the County Council and audience Thursday morning in recalling his decision to hire Lee. “I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had him.” Johnson called Lee a man of integrity and a devoted law enforcement officer who’s equally skilled as a street cop and an administrator. He could do everything from help negotiate contracts and budgets to mixing it up in the streets and hunting down bad guys. “Bill has been my right arm,” Johnson said. “I’m going to miss him.”

A U.S. Army veteran, the 59-year-old Lee started his law enforcement career in South Florida, first with the Clewiston Police Department in 1974 and then with the North Miami Beach Police Department. He was hired on with FDLE in 1982 and remained there until he came to work on the first day of Sheriff Johnson’s first term on Jan. 2, 2001. In 1989, while working on a Violent Street Crimes Task Force for FDLE, Lee was shot and injured during a traffic stop. Lee, who was flanked Thursday by his wife, two grandchildren, co-workers and close friends, shrugged off the injury and said it was just part of the risk of being in law enforcement. And he had high praise for the Sheriff’s Office, calling it an outstanding organization “from top to bottom.” Said Lee of his 11 years with the Sheriff’s Office: “It has been the most exciting thing I have ever done in law enforcement.”

County Council members also had high praise for Lee. “We have been honored to have you here in Volusia County government,” Council member Pat Northey told Lee. “Your service throughout this community has been well-known, admired and respected.” County Manager Jim Dinneen also offered his praise and thanks. “I have not met anybody that has more personal integrity and professional ethics than you do,” Dinneen told Lee. “Thank you very much. You’ve done a great service.”

Lee’s replacement, the 51-year-old Coffin, served for 22 years in the Sheriff’s Office beginning in June 1987, where he rose to the rank of Captain while serving in various supervisory and management positions. His previous assignments included road patrol and narcotics as well as positions as an assistant district commander and as commander of Special Services and commander of law enforcement operations at Daytona Beach International Airport. Coffin also served as the executive officer for the Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Services Division and was a member of the agency’s SWAT Team. In November 2009, Coffin left the Sheriff’s Office to assume the position of Volusia County’s Director of Public Protection, where he oversaw corrections, fire services, beach services, emergency management, animal control and the medical examiner’s office as well as the recent integration of EVAC ambulance into county government. Coffin served in the U.S. Coast Guard and has two master’s degrees, one in Forensic Science from National University and the other in Homeland Security and Defense from the U.S. Naval Postgraduate School. “We’re glad to have him back,” said Sheriff Johnson. “Mike possesses the strong combination of operational and management experience that you need in a Chief Deputy. It’s a big job and a challenging position, and he came in on Day One ready to jump right in and go to work.”

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