INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Across four decades, the people of Indian River County had Roy Raymond working for their protection.
"He had this community and everyone in it at heart," said former Deputy Jeff Luther about the death Tuesday of his former boss. "He was a good man. He was the best sheriff I ever worked for."
Raymond died Tuesday at age 80, according to the Indian River County Sheriff's Office. Strunk Funeral Home and Crematory in Vero Beach is handling burial arrangements.
As of Wednesday, Strunk officials said they were still discussing a funeral date with the family. The cause of Raymond's death was not available Wednesday. Family members could not be reached for comment.
Sheriff in 2000 until 2008
"He was a great guy, fair and reasonable," said former Deputy Roberta Barker.
Raymond announced his candidacy for sheriff in January 1999, claiming that the incumbent, Gary Wheeler, was overspending and mismanaging the agency.
"I've prepared all my life for an administrative job in law enforcement," he told the Press Journal at the time.
Raymond was elected sheriff in 2000, unseating Wheeler. He retained the seat in 2004.
Those two terms culminated a law enforcement career that began with the then-Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission, now known as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.
He also served with the Dade County Sheriff's Office in the late 1960s, then joined the Vero Beach Police Department in 1969, where he became a detective.
Raymond joined the Sheriff's Office in 1973. He left briefly in 1980 to do private security work in Fellsmere before returning the next year. Then-Sheriff Tim Dobeck appointed him as undersheriff.
"I was only 32 years old at the time and didn't have a lot of administrative experience, but Roy had that," Dobeck said Tuesday. "I have to give him a lot of credit. He had great pride in knowing his business."
The pair worked together for 12 years in those roles.
"He was my friend for more than 50 years," Dobeck said. "He was the kind of guy that excelled at everything he did and was exceptionally in tune with the public."
Raymond gained the admiration of his equivalent just south of Indian River County as well.
"Sheriff Raymond and I were both elected in November of 2000," said St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken Mascara, 62, who is still in office and seeking re-election. "We were classmates at the Sheriff's Academy, that mandatory training that all newly elected sheriffs must attend."
Mascara enjoyed working with Raymond when the sheriff's offices had cases that intertwined.
"I always looked to him for his advice and wisdom," Mascara said.
Raymond elected not to run for a third term in 2008. Voters elected his successor, Deryl Loar, who is wrapping up his third term and did not run for re-election.
"In the transition, he was a big help and I learned a lot from him," Loar said.
'Always been a cowboy'
Several former deputies cited Raymond's "open door" policy, for which he welcomed any of them to talk with him about any issue. Former Lt. Leroy Smith walked through that door several times with a heavy heart.
Both Smith's wife, Tori Smith, and his son, Leroy Smith Jr., suffered from mitochondrial disease — failure of cells that create most of the energy needed to live and support organ function. His wife died from it in 2005, followed by his son, who was 22, in 2007.
"My son was declared terminally ill," Leroy Smith said Wednesday. "Sheriff Raymond gave me a book about dealing with loss."
Under Raymond, Smith was promoted to deputy division commander, making him the highest-ranked Black law enforcement officer in the county at the time.
"I think he was a very fair and honest man who was concerned about his deputies and the community," said Smith, now a part-time instructor at the public safety academy at Indian River State College.
He had a passion for animals, too.
"He had a knack for horses," Luther said. "He's always been a cowboy."
Raymond's care for animals parlayed into his law enforcement career, as well. He served as a game warden in Immokalee when he worked as a state wildlife official.
Luther said as a detective, Raymond broke up a cock-fighting ring. And in between his years as undersheriff and sheriff, Raymond worked for the Humane Society of Vero Beach as an animal cruelty investigator.
Raymond and his wife, Beverly "Scooter" Raymond, lived for many years in Fellsmere. In his retirement, the pair enjoyed camping and boating, Dobeck said.
The people in Fellsmere enjoyed claiming the county's sheriff as one of their own.
"It gave us a little bit of status," Fellsmere City Councilman Joel Tyson said. "It was good for Fellsmere. At the time he was elected, Fellsmere had a terrible reputation."
In Fellsmere, Raymond owned two feed stores and saddle shops for 16 years, selling most of the operations before becoming sheriff. He also made and sold custom saddles and offered other equestrian services through his business, Roy's Saddle Shop Inc.
Luther owns a Raymond-made saddle, he said. Another former deputy, Al Scott, said Raymond refurbished a saddle he rode for 30 years.
"His second love was cowboying," Scott said.
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Lamaur Stancil is the Treasure Coast regional economy reporter covering business and industries, including retail, tourism and hospitality. Contact him at 321-987-7179 or email@example.com and follow him at Lamaur Stancil on Facebook and @TCPalmLStancil on Twitter.
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