LIVE OAK — Holding his mother’s hand while standing in a Winter Haven park for the Orange Festival’s parade as a child, Ron Colvin can still vividly remember the giant of a man standing next to him.
“Standing right beside me was this giant figure,” Colvin said in an interview last week. “Looked like he was 8 feet tall.”
In addition to towering over him — which Colvin admits now the man was probably only 5- or 6-feet tall — the man was decked out with a green stetson hat, long-sleeve white shirt, green tie, dark green pants and a stag horn handled revolver.
“I just kept staring at this guy and staring at this guy,” Colvin recalled. “I was just amazed.
“From that point, I always wanted to work for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. So that’s where I got started, way young.”
That young dream of becoming a law enforcement officer came to fruition in 1978 when Colvin was finally hired after nearly two years of attempting to get on with the sheriff’s office.
It will end this month when Colvin’s 40-plus career in law enforcement comes to an end when he retires as chief deputy of the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office.
It will also mark the end of what Colvin believes was his calling.
“I equate it to you know a preacher that says he was called to preach,” he said. “I believe I was called to do law enforcement. And that was it. Nothing else.”
Colvin also said that he always believed that dream of working for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office would be realized for his entire career. That’s all he ever imagined.
However, once again, Colvin said God had other plans for him.
After nearly 13 years working for the PCSO, Colvin was experiencing a rough patch personally. So when his father, who was born near Dowling Park and had been raised in Lee, retired and moved back to Suwannee County and was followed by Colvin’s brother and sister after their father became ill, Colvin finally followed suit.
“I woke up one day and just said I had to get out,” he noted.
Colvin believed a deputy from the big PCSO agency would have little trouble finding work in North Florida.
He was wrong. It took around 11 months, he said, for Sheriff Robert Leonard to hire him.
And that came after Colvin had agreed to move back home to Polk County.
“(My wife) cried every day for a year from the day she moved up here because she wanted to go back home,” Colvin said, adding the worst thing he ever did was having to take a different job because it wasn’t law enforcement.
So Colvin agreed to move back home, but asked that Kellie give him until Dec. 1.
“My hire date here was Dec. 1, 1991,” Colvin said. “That’s strange, but that’s what it was.
“The good Lord meant for me to stay.”
And by staying, Colvin said he became a true law enforcement officer.
In Polk County, he said road deputies often just passed cases off to departments and investigators after their initial work. In Suwannee County, they worked cases from beginning to end.
“I learned a lot about really law enforcement coming here,” he said. “And if I was a sheriff or in a hiring position, I would take the guys from a small agency over a big agency any day. Because they already know how to do a lot of that basic stuff.”
He also gained a ton of experience, which he has helped pass on over the years.
“He epitomizes the idea of leadership,” Lt. Wayne Musgrove said of Colvin.
That leadership also attracted attention from Tony Cameron when Cameron ran for sheriff and defeated Al Williams in 2004.
Cameron said he had decided early on that Colvin would be an ideal chief deputy.
“He’s different than I am,” Cameron said. “In a lot of ways, he’s the complete opposite of me…He had a calming effect on me. If I ruffled too much in handling a situation, he’d calm them back down.”
But that was news to Colvin, who said he still isn’t sure why Cameron chose him, a sergeant at the time.
“I had to learn, I had to learn quick, fast and in a hurry,” he said. “I didn’t even know what the position of chief deputy was other than I’m the guy right underneath the sheriff.”
Not only did Cameron believe Colvin the ideal chief deputy, in part because of his devotion to doing his job. When Sam St. John was elected sheriff following Cameron’s retirement in 2016, he also decided Colvin was the right guy.
“I knew he would do what I would do,” Cameron said. “He’d make the decision that he knew I would make … even if it wasn’t necessarily the decision he would make.
“He was a stable rock for me.”
St. John said that not only had he worked alongside Colvin throughout their careers at the sheriff’s office, but Colvin’s experience as a chief deputy was also attractive in retaining him.
“He was a wealth of knowledge,” St. John said. “It wasn’t a hard decision at all for me to keep him where he was at.
“I relied on him a lot when I first became sheriff to get a second opinion on things.”
Those two weren’t the only ones who believe Colvin was an ideal chief deputy.
“He was the best person for that job,” Musgrove said.
And now, retirement is the best thing for Colvin.
“It has nothing to do with being angry or being upset at the work,” he said, repeatedly stating he had a great career. “If I woke up and I was 19 years old again, actually 18 if they would hire me, I’d still do it.
“Somebody told me once that when you’re ready, you’ll know it. I’m ready.”
And that decision has left a hole — a rather large one.
“I really, really, really hate to lose him,” St. John said. “I’ve tried to talk him out of it.”
Added Lt. Shawn Larney: “It’s definitely a void.”
Said Musgrove: “Very, very big shoes and very, very, very few people would be able to fill those shoes. You may replace the position, but you’re not going to replace the person.”