Rep. William Snyder, the quiet, unpretentious legislator who will walk a block out of his way to avoid the limelight, strode into it willingly Tuesday.
With cameras blazing, friends and family at his side, the Stuart Republican announced that he will not seek re-election to his House seat in 2012 but will pursue instead the office he's always wanted -- sheriff of Martin County.
Among those joining Snyder for the announcement in Stuart were Congressman Tom Rooney, R-Tequesta and state Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart.
"It's been the greatest honor of my life to serve the people of my district in Tallahassee," Snyder told Sunshine State News. "And I will continue to do so through the current term. But my heart has always been in law enforcement, and I want to stay as close as I can to my grandchildren."
"You know what? I could easily slip behind the wheel of a police car right now and feel just as at home as I do in an easy chair. It would be like I never left the job," he said.
Snyder explained why he is announcing so far in advance of the election. In the first place, he said, Martin County Sheriff Bob Crowder has said he plans to retire. And "I couldn't wait until the last minute. I filed the papers early to show I'm committed and there's no turning back.
"I'm going forward with this," he said. "It gives my party time to give other people a chance to take my place."
Snyder, 58, had run against Crowder for the sheriff's job in 1992 and lost. Crowder later hired him and there he remained until he retired as a major just before he ran for the District 82 seat in 2006.
This year Snyder serves as vice chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety; also on the Committee on Energy, the Committee on Utilities & Telecommunications, the Joint Legislative Auditing Committee, the Safety & Security Council and the Select Committee to Protect Personal Information.
Snyder gained national attention in recent weeks by leading the way in Florida's immigration debate, preparing a controversial Arizona-style bill to curb the entry of illegal aliens.
Coincidentally, on Tuesday, same day as his announcement that he will not run for re-election, law enforcement authorities announced they are investigating an unsigned e-mail threat Snyder received at his Stuart legislative office. It had come an hour after the mass fatal shooting in Arizona that left Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords critically wounded.
"The e-mail said, 'Stop working on that bill if you value your and your family's safety,'" Snyder said. "You know, I'm a cop, none of that stuff frightens me personally. But I can't have my family in danger. That's why I reported the incident."
The investigation is ongoing.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (850) 727-0859.