Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Sheriff

Four candidates have filed for sheriff: Michael Hazellief (NPA), William “Bill” Markham (DEM), Noel E. Stephen (REP), and Darryl Stokes (REP). The County Sheriff serves a four-year term, with salary set at $112,877 per year.

Sheriff Paul May announced last year that he does not plan to seek another term in office.


Michael Hazellief

Deputy Corporal and road patrol supervisor Michael Hazellief has announced he is running for the office of sheriff of Okeechobee County.

Cpl. Hazellief, 45, has been a full-time deputy with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) since August of 2004. Prior to that he served on the OCSO auxiliary as a volunteer. He has been a supervisor for the OCSO road patrol division for the past four years. Before that he was on the OCSO agricultural unit for nearly six years.

Michael Hazellief

Michael Hazellief

Cpl. Hazellief, who is registered as having No Party Affiliation (NPA), and his wife Jeanne have been together for almost seven years and have two daughters — Jasmine and Hannah.

The corporal graduated from Fort Pierce Central High School in 1988. Since then he has received his Associate of Arts degree from Indian River State College, and his Bachelor of Science – Organizational Management in Public Safety from Indian River State College.

He is currently enrolled in the Master’s program in Criminal Justice at Florida State University.

In all, he has received over 600 hours of advanced law enforcement training.
Further, he graduated from the Treasure Coast Public Safety Training Leadership Academy in 2015, and is a 2012 graduate of the Leading by Legacy program.

He has also attended a plethora of seminars and law enforcement-oriented classes, such as: human resource management and organizational behavior; building and maintaining a sound organization; Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC) line supervision; CJSTC middle management; CJSTC field training officer; CJSTC firearms instructor; CJSTC instructor; and, CJSTC vehicle operation instructor.

He has also attended classes and seminars dealing with hostage negotiations, investigative interviews, narcotics identification and interviews, weapons of mass destruction, case preparations, court presentation and pursuit intervention technique.

Cpl. Hazellief is also a certified teen driver instructor, radar and laser operator and Glock armorer.

He also graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in advanced driving instructor training.

In his 15 years of service with the sheriff’s office, he has worked at different levels within that office and handled all types of calls and investigations.

Before he joined the sheriff’s office, he was in the heavy equipment industry and the lessons learned there have helped shape him in how to run the office and supervise employees.

“I will also utilize modern policing practices to help reduce crime rates and dedicate more resources to crime prevention, while staying committed to law enforcement,” he said. “I will provide these services with the same courteous and professional personnel that our community expects and deserves.”

So, why should the voters of Okeechobee County choose you as their next sheriff?

“With new industry and community partners — such as Guy Harvey and the FPL power plant on the horizon — the county should see increased revenues which, if properly managed, can provide some much-needed financial relief to taxpayers in our community,” Cpl. Hazellief said. “As your sheriff, I will ensure that you will receive the best possible services from the department while maintaining an efficient, prudent budget.

“I believe the combination of my education, training and years of law enforcement experience will provide the tools necessary to guide the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office into the fiscally responsible, fundamentally sound and cutting-edge law enforcement agency our citizens deserve,” he added.


William Markham

William Patrick ‘Bill’ Markham has thrown his hat into the ring and is a candidate for the office of sheriff of Okeechobee County.

Although Mr. Markham, 45, is not currently in law enforcement he was with the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) for some 16 years. He is currently employed by the Gilbert Family of Companies.

William Markham

William Markham

Mr. Markham, a Democrat, began his law enforcement career in the corrections division in 1990 when he was hired by then-sheriff O.L. Raulerson. He then transferred to the OCSO road patrol division in 1991, and in 1996 was promoted to the rank of corporal and became a road patrol supervisor. He also received his instructor’s certification.

In 1998, Mr. Markham was promoted to sergeant and then became a detective in the Narcotics Task Force until 2003, when he was named the 9-1-1 coordinator by the Okeechobee County Board of County Commissioners. He also took over the duties as the OCSO public information officer and was assigned numerous speaking duties that included presentations to the county commission and state legislators.

In 2004 he was promoted to administrative lieutenant. Part of his duties at that time was to conduct and finalize OCSO policy rewrites.

Mr. Markham, who is currently single, has two daughters — Janelle, a sophomore at Okeechobee High School, and Jana Mullis, who is in her second year of studying optometry at Nova University.

His parents are Lowry Markham and Patricia Cooper.

After graduating from Okeechobee High School in 1989, Mr. Markham attended South Florida State College and graduated from the Law Enforcement Academy in 1990. He then received multiple law enforcement certifications from Indian River State College that included: law enforcement; chemical agent; and, firearms instructor.

He has also completed numerous continuing education law enforcement-related classes that include; grant writing; computer networking; civil process; narcotics; and, death investigative procedures.

Mr. Markham has also garnered work experience in the private sector.

“I have acquired first-hand management experience in a multi-million dollar private sector corporation. My duties in that position included: creating, presenting and managing budgets; formulating and conducting verbal presentations for bidding contracts; supervising all aspects of human relations/personnel; and, efficiently scheduling and routing service to approximately 100,000 citizens.”

Besides his leadership experience, Mr. Markham said his law enforcement experience and the trust in him by past sheriffs have molded him into a deserving candidate for the office of sheriff.

“Three sheriffs believed in my abilities at the OCSO to resolve life and death situations. These sheriffs gave me complete control of each incident, and I resolved each one — capturing suspected murderers and other violent criminal,” Mr. Markham pointed out. “Five sheriffs in three counties have relied on me to make good decisions in difficult times, and I made those decisions under pressure.”

So, why should the voters of Okeechobee County choose you as their next sheriff?

“I have experience in many aspects of law enforcement and it is my intention, if elected, to concentrate on the safety of the people and property of our county. My goal is for every law enforcement officer to be proactive within the community, thus earning the trust and respect of all Okeechobee County citizens,” he said. “Under my leadership, the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office will be responsive to all concerns and complaints — communicating actions taken in a timely manner.”


Noel Stephen

Noel Edwin Stephen, the current major at the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO), is asking voters to make him the next sheriff of Okeechobee County.

Maj. Stephen, 49, has been with the OCSO for nearly 29 years. For the last 12 years he has served as Sheriff Paul May’s undersheriff.

Noel Stephen

Noel Stephen

He has served on the OCSO command staff as captain and major for 16 years, and prepared the OCSO budget for the past 12 years.

Maj. Stephen, a Republican, has also: managed 230 full-time staff members; 100 volunteers; managed the Okeechobee County Jail with 300 inmates; implemented a $4.5 million agency-wide and upgraded communications center to a state-of-the-art center; brought in a $1 million agency-wide software system; and, directed the agency through the 2004 hurricanes and the 2016 Okeechobee Music Fest.

Maj. Stephen, who is single, has two sons — Corey Allen Stephen (wife, Brandy) and Kodi Edwin Stephen. He also has two grandchildren — Braleigh and Corleigh.

The OCSO major graduated from Okeechobee High School in 1984.

Maj. Stephen began his law enforcement career in 1987 when he became a corrections officer at the Okeechobee County Jail. In 1988 he became a certified corrections officer. In 1989 he became a member of the OCSO auxiliary and became a certified law enforcement officer on May 18, 1990, when he joined the OCSO road patrol division.

The major was promoted to detective and joined the OCSO criminal investigations division in 1994. He was then promoted to the rank of corporal and moved back to the road patrol division.

On March 1, 2000, he again joined the criminal investigations division as a detective.

Maj. Stephen attained the rank of road patrol captain on Nov. 1, 2001, and stayed there until Jan. 4, 2005, when he was named to his current rank.

He has also attended numerous advanced educational classes at Indian River State College, South Florida State College, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (F.B.I.), the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (F.D.L.E.) — along with a host of other organizations and schools.

Those other organizations and schools include: the F.B.I. Law Enforcement Executive Development Command Institute; the F.D.L.E. Criminal Justice Institute Chief Executive Academy; the F.D.L.E. Criminal Justice Institute Effective Budgeting for Criminal Justice Agencies; the Florida Sheriff’s Association Executive Training; the Institute of Police Technology and Management Developing Law Enforcement Managers; the Northwestern State University Command Staff Development Institute; the Advanced Incident Command System Complex Incidents Training; and, Indian River State College law enforcement and corrections certification.

“I also have almost 29 years of ‘on the job’ experience that you cannot receive from any class, college or university,” he said.

If elected, he vows to maintain a sheriff’s office that is respectful, considerate, approachable and proactive to all of the threats to the community.

He also said he will: “Have an open-door policy to anyone requesting to speak with me. And, I will continue to be an active and visible person within our community.”

So, why should the voters choose you as their next sheriff of Okeechobee County?

“I stand behind my 28.5 years of devoted and dedicated law enforcement service to our community. I have proven my ability to perform my duties with dedication, while being respectful to everyone I deal with,” Maj. Stephen said.

“I want to make our community a safe place to raise our children, own a business and to live.”


Darryl Stokes

Okeechobee resident and Martin County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Sergeant Darryl L. Stokes is running for the sheriff of Okeechobee County.

Sgt. Stokes, a Republican, has 30 years of law enforcement experience and education and is dual certified in law enforcement and corrections. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant approximately five years ago.

Darryl Stokes

Darryl Stokes

He is experienced in supervising staff, as well as incarcerated inmates.

He and his wife, Barbara, have been married for 27 years. They have one daughter – Kayla, 24 – and one son – Dyllan, 21.

Sgt. Stokes graduated from Okeechobee High School in 1984. In 1986, he attended Palm Beach Junior College and completed the Basic Standard Corrections class.

In 1987 he attended Indian River State College and completed the Basic Law Enforcement academy.

From 1980 until 1987, Sgt. Stokes worked for Martin County Corrections. He then joined the Okeechobee City Police Department and served there until 1989.

In 1991 he went to work for the MCSO and stayed there until 1995 when he joined the Seminole Police Department (SPD). Sgt. Stokes then left the SPD in 1996 became a corrections officer at the Okeechobee Correctional Institute (OCI).

Then, in 1999, he left there and went back to the MCSO.

On Sept. 13, 2011, he was promoted to the rank of training sergeant. Sgt. Stokes is currently assigned to the MCSO’s West County Division in Indiantown.

“Over the course of my career, and to date, I am continuing my education as a law enforcement officer. I have a total of 4,218.87 documented hours of education,” he added.

Sgt. Stokes has attended training classes and seminars that include, but are not limited to, high liability courses such as: firearms; use of force; pit driving; First Responder instructor; middle management; line supervision; supervisor training; and, leadership training.

He said this is only a small portion of his training that he will bring as an asset to the office of sheriff.

He said the years have also taught him that a successful leader is one who not only listens to their staff, but helps them to achieve their goals.

“This way, I can produce more leaders and not more followers,” he said.

If elected, Sgt. Stokes said he will bring knowledge, fairness, respect and accountability to the community on behalf of the sheriff’s office. He also vows to use the available resources to make the sheriff’s office more productive in servicing the community and its needs.

“Communication and honesty are important keys to building a strong relationship between the community and law enforcement. Everyone,” he added, “should be treated equally.”

He went on to say he will enforce accountability and consequences to those who break the law.

So, why should the voters of Okeechobee County choose you as their next sheriff?

“I bring 30 years of experience and education. I will hold myself accountable for the integrity and values of the sheriff’s office. I will use the resources that the sheriff’s office has to make our community a safer and better place to reside,” said Sgt. Stokes. “I will have the sheriff’s office employees advance their training and duties for the well being of the community, the sheriff’s office and themselves.

“I consider myself ‘transparent’ and a ‘what you see is what you get’ kind of man,” he added.


Other 2016 Okeechobee County races

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 1

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 3

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Commission: District 5

Meet the Okeechobee County property appraiser candidates

Meet the candidates for Okeechobee County Sheriff

Primary Election Information

Local candidates seek elected office 3/27/16

Eric Kopp is a staff writer for the Okeechobee News

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