By: Jarret Romanello, The St. Lucie Post
Photos: Lou Fernandes, Everlasting Films + Photography
May 17, 2021
On May 13, 2021, community members met at Adams Ranch in Fort Pierce for an afternoon of good food and fellowship with local law enforcement. St. Lucie County Sheriff Ken J. Mascara and Chief Deputy Brian Hester unveiled an enhanced Agriculture Unit to service the 4,000 property owners in a community that defines the rich history and culture of St. Lucie County.
Known for its cow pastures and citrus groves, the 250 square miles of land in Western St. Lucie County has seen a recent population increase, and Sheriff Mascara knew it was time to add more deputies. When Mascara started his career in 1977, only one deputy patrolled the area. Field training officers would take new hires to the rural lands to meet the residents and learn the difference between a cow and a bull.
When Mascara was elected Sheriff in 2001, he recognized Western St. Lucie County was underserviced and quickly doubled staffing. Twenty years later, with new ranchettes, businesses, and planned communities moving in, Sheriff Mascara tapped Chief Deputy Brain Hester to architect an improved Agriculture Unit to better serve the citizens. “The ten deputies we are permanently assigning to the unit live, breath, and work Agriculture – they love it,” Sheriff Mascara says, underscoring the emphasis his office puts on building sustainable relationships between the community members and Sheriff’s Deputies. ‘It is their job to get to know you, and it is your job to get to know them,” Sheriff Mascara told the audience of residents and deputies.
Chief Deputy Brian Hester carefully selected the right people for the job before introducing them to the community. “All of these deputies choose to work out west. We selected them because of their background and experience. Many of them live out here or have worked agriculture before, so they are familiar with the community,” Chief Deputy Hester says. Lieutenant Rich Ziarkowski is excited to be commanding the new unit. “I couldn’t think of better deputies to work with and a better community to work for,” Lieutenant Ziarkowski says.
Craig Carter, the owner of Carter’s Grocery, catered a BBQ lunch for the event and is happy with the level of service the Sheriff’s Office provides his business. “The Sheriff and Chief Deputy Hester go above and beyond to build a relationship of trust with our residents,” Carter says.
Mike Adams, the President of Adams Ranch Inc., hosted the event at his family’s ranch and offered a blessing over the food before deputies and residents shared laughs and a meal. One of the largest cow-calf operations in the country, Adams Ranch, has pastures in St Lucie, Okeechobee and Osceola County. “Our operation is successful because of the support of our neighbors and the assistance of the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office. The deputies assigned out west work with us to identify problems before they arise,” Adams told The St. Lucie Post.
Before his 27-year career in law enforcement, Deputy Pat Ivey spent 16 years working on ranches in Western St. Lucie County and says, “Each day it’s our job to make this place better – Adams Ranch and Western St. Lucie County treat us like family.”
Osceola County Sheriff Marco Lopez attended the event with his Agriculture Unit members to show support. Osceola County residents call their agriculture deputies directly to report equipment theft, poaching, and trespassing. “You have to earn their trust – they have to get to know you. When you do, the Agriculture Unit is successful,” Sheriff Lopez told the St. Lucie Post.
Chief Deputy Hester is making sure the new deputies have the tools they need to do their job. “We carry post hole diggers, barb wire, and staples,” Says Deputy Joe Bell. On occasion, Deputy Bell gets a call from a resident that went out of town and forgot to lock up. “We gave each deputy business cards so you can contact them directly,” Chief Hester told the crowd.
At the nearby Best Choice Meats, Deputy Joe Bell’s business card is already on the wall behind the register, and the familiarity of the Sheriff’s deputies makes staff feel safe. “It’s nice to know our deputies by name and know what they look like,” Mike Adams said.
“It’s great to see the community coming out to support the Sheriff’s Office,” Chief Deputy Hester said as he talked to residents during lunch. “Our work doesn’t stop out here. We make it a point to continually engage all communities to foster a more cohesive relationship between our deputies and the residents we serve,” Chief Deputy Hester told the St. Lucie Post.