No. 19 on the list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians: Chris Nocco

Sheriff's Nocco's pedigree is like a Republican dream.

Few politicos in the Tampa Bay area would disagree that the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office is only one act in Chris Nocco’s elective story.

All it takes to read those tea leaves is a look at Sheriff Nocco’s pedigree.

Rick Scott appointed Nocco to lead the agency in 2011. Pasco elected him with little resistance in 2012 and 2016. And he faced no resistance in 2020. But his path to political prominence reads like a Jack Ryan-esque character in a Tom Clancy series.

Nocco was a first responder in D.C. for 9/11, the D.C. sniper incident and anthrax attacks. He was Chief of Staff for the Florida Highway Patrol and the Chief of Staff for U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio when Rubio was Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. And his wife is a high-caliber GOP fundraiser affiliated with the powerful lobbying firm Ballard Partners.

Nocco has also made some powerful friends in the Republican stronghold of Pasco County, including outgoing Education Commissioner Richard Corcoran and Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano, who previously served in the state Senate. Nocco is said to have his own Senate ambitions that could pit him against long-time friend Danny Burgess, depending on what maps look like at the end of the redistricting process. He’s also good on camera. Even if you don’t care for what he has to say, you might not mind watching him say it.

Nocco’s got a reputation as a cop’s cop, which has helped grow his popularity within Pasco.

“Sheriff Nocco’s approach to law enforcement emphasizes proactive initiatives and support systems to better the lives of constituents and prevent more serious issues,” said Natalie King of RSA Consulting. “As an experienced, intelligent leader, he builds community partnerships and implements innovative solutions, especially within the mental health and crisis intervention space. He notably leads one of the largest Behavioral Health Intervention Teams in the state, and his deep respect by the people of Pasco County is well-deserved.”

Most of Nocco’s tenure as the top cop was unmarred until a Tampa Bay Times investigation unveiled details of his Intelligence-Led Policing (ILP) that targets individuals who it finds likely to re-offend using their criminal history and intelligence gathering. Nocco praised the program for reducing crimes like car theft and burglary in the county.

The Times found Nocco’s deputies made repeated visits to the homes of family and individuals associated with a targeted offender. Often, the deputies would visit those individuals at random hours of the night and morning without a warrant or suspicion of a crime. Under the program, deputies also would use minor code enforcement violations as a reason to question and even arrest family members of their targets.

ILP has become a polarizing item for Nocco, but whether it draws you in or pushes you away, the attention he’s received has helped cement his power and proven his effectiveness. It has also moved him six spots on the list and laid a springboard at his feet if he decides to act on his legislative ambitions.

“There’s a saying in politics that if you’re over the target, expect some flak,” GOP consultant Anthony Pedicini said.

“Sheriff Nocco is a favorite target of the liberal Tampa Bay Newspaper because his policies, personality, and style are 100% over the target. Like other Sheriffs in the Tampa Bay region, Nocco is a lawman. He puts keeping the community safe first. He’s a great husband and father. Among the Republican faithful in Pasco, his numbers rival those of the fabled Mike Fasano. There’s been lots of talk about Nocco’s future. Will he run for Senate? Will he run for Congress? I have no doubt Sheriff isn’t his last stop, and that’s why he’s on this list of some of the most powerful politicians in Tampa Bay.”

Though ILP has produced some negative headlines for Nocco, he’s also been a leader in nonpartisan and bipartisan issues, such as getting the Crime Victims’ Bill of Rights enshrined in the state constitution.

The Constitution Revision Commission added the measure to the 2018 ballot, on which Nocco served. It wasn’t a solo effort — he reached across the aisle and worked with now-Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book to champion the proposal, also known as Marsy’s Law.

The Pasco Sheriff has also participated in numerous apolitical, feel-good community events, holding food giveaways over the holidays and taking an active role in Florida’s fight against human trafficking. On the latter, he formed a human trafficking unit within the Sheriff’s office which has provided valuable support to federal investigators, resulting in the arrest, prosecution and conviction of multiple traffickers.

Joe Henderson’s take: There is no denying his popularity with Pasco County voters, but his harassment-style predictive policing policy is straight out of Big Brother. And in Pasco, if the Sheriff’s Office decides someone is likely to commit a crime, Big Brother is always watching.


As for methodology, we define the Tampa Bay region as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota — if the politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

We define a politician as being in office or running for office.

Being first on a panelist’s list earns the politician 25 points, second earns them 24 points and so on, to where being listed 25th earns a politician one point. Points are added and, voilà, we have a list.

Special thanks go to our experienced and knowledgeable panelists, who were essential to developing the 2022 list: Christina Barker of the Vinik Family Office, Ashley Bauman of Mercury, Ed Briggs of RSA Consulting, Ricky Butler of the Pinellas Co. Sheriff’s Office, Reggie Cardozo of The Public Square, Ronald Christaldi of Schumaker, Evan Donovan of WFLA, Joe Farrell of Pinellas Realtors, pollster Matt Florell of Vicidial Group, Shawn Foster of Sunrise Consulting Group, political consultant Max GoodmanMike Griffin of Savills, Joe Henderson, Todd Josko of Ballard Partners, Natalie King of RSA Consulting, Patrick Manteiga, publisher of LaGaceta, Seth McKeel of The Southern Group, Jennifer Motsinger, EVP of Tampa Bay Builders Association, Mitch Perry of Charter News, Ron Pierce of RSA Consulting, Preston Rudie of Catalyst Communications Group, and Alan Suskey of Shumaker Advisors. With Michelle and Peter Schorsch.

Daniel Figueroa IV

Bronx, NY —> St. Pete, Fla. Just your friendly, neighborhood journo junkie with a penchant for motorcycles and Star Wars. Daniel has spent the last decade covering Tampa Bay and Florida for the Ledger of Lakeland, Tampa Bay Times, and WMNF. You can reach Daniel Figueroa IV at [email protected].


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