For years, I’ve kept a now tattered and coffee-stained note affixed to my computer monitor. It serves as a daily reminder for why I devoted my career to public service and how to conduct my life in general.
It’s a simple message. Just two words. But these small words had massive and profound impact on my life and are the guiding principle for every decision I make and for every action I take. The message: “SERVICE = REWARD.”
Far too often, we put attaining the reward ahead of service. We work because we want a new TV, a nicer car or a bigger house. We forget the higher purpose. To live the fullest and most productive life, we must each focus on providing the best possible service to others ahead of all else. The rewards will come later — often when we least expect it.
These words have been a driving force since I was a little boy growing up in inner-city Philadelphia. My mother largely raised me by herself — my father left when I was young — and she worked multiple jobs to make ends meet. Surrounded by gangs and drugs, I quickly understood I needed to work hard and stay on the straight and narrow to pave a path to success.
That led me after high school to move to Tallahassee with just $500 to my name, but with the dream of playing football at Florida State University under legendary coach Bobby Bowden. People doubted me at every turn. But I worked hard, proved the doubters wrong and achieved my dream.
After graduating from FSU with a degree in criminology, I put my belief in service into practice. In 2005, I became a police officer with the Coral Springs Police Department. From my first day on the job, I focused on providing the type of diligent and selfless service the residents deserved. That dedication helped me break through the color barrier to become that agency’s first black sergeant.
In 2016, I left the department and took a risk to focus full-time on a higher cause. All too aware of the numerous active shooter attacks in the US and mass bombing tragedies throughout the world, I relocated and formed a company to provide both the public and private sector with active shooter and mass casualty training. I’m proud of the work we performed and had planned to be there for years to come.
That all changed last year on February 14, with the tragedy at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. I headed back down to Broward from my new home in South Carolina to assist the families and community affected by the mass shooting. I sat through every MSD Commission hearing and studied all their reports to determine what went wrong and, most importantly, to find ways to prevent this type of tragedy from ever occurring again.
Because of that experience, I was honored and humbled when the governor afforded me this incredible opportunity to help protect the 1.9 million residents of Broward County. As sheriff, I’m here to serve. My pledge to you is simple and clear: I will always provide you with the best leadership and service I can. The reward will come in the form of a safer Broward.
Sincerely, Sheriff Gregory Tony