Sheriff Mike Prendergast’s troubles give hope to Citrus County challengers

'What the Sheriff’s Office needs is a good leader.'

Mike Prendergast once owned this room. Now he’s a no-show.

Prendergast, the two-term incumbent Citrus County Sheriff, finds himself fending off attacks from all directions, including the Citrus Trump 47 Club where Prendergast enjoyed full support for his first six years in office.

When the club had a forum for Sheriff’s candidates in Lecanto, Prendergast’s three challengers eagerly presented their platforms. Prendergast’s campaign was absent.

Opponent Calvin Adams Jr., a retired colonel with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, made sure attendees knew the incumbent didn’t show up.

“That should be emblazoned in your mind,” he said. “That is a disgrace. A flat-out disgrace.”

Four Republicans are in the race: Prendergast, Adams, Doug Alexander and Dave Vincent.

Prendergast has a huge financial lead — $184,707 in contributions as of April 10, the most recent reporting deadline. Alexander and Vincent had about $65,000 in contributions between them.

Prendergast, however, has shed public support recently.

In early 2023 his agency assisted the FBI in its arrest of Jesse Rumson, known as “Sedition Panda,” for his role in the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot. When Prendergast took to the agency’s Facebook page to support the FBI’s efforts, his Republican backers associated with former President Donald Trump reacted with outrage.

“No vote for you Mr. Prendergast. You are a traitor,” one comment said.

In March, Prendergast’s public image took another hit with the arrest of Dennis “Gene” Himmel, the adult son of Superintendent of Schools Sandra “Sam” Himmel, on charges of drug dealing. Prendergast announced the arrest on the agency Facebook page complete with a photo of Prendergast in riot gear staring down at a handcuffed Gene Himmel.

The photo, especially, ignited the community against Prendergast.

“Thank you for calling out the bullying and acts of intimidation by the sheriff,” one person commented on the Just Wright Citrus Facebook page. “A very poor example of how to live, let alone lead.”

Prendergast has also taken on Citrus County Commissioners over his budget. He started a Facebook campaign aimed at convincing Commissioners of the need for more deputies, but the effort has found little traction.

Prendergast accused Commissioners of trying to “defund police” because they are looking for a special property tax specific for the Sheriff’s operations.

Challengers have taken notice. 

Vincent, a former Sheriff’s captain who now is the Citrus County School District Chief of Police, repeatedly discusses the need for communication and dialogue among the county’s elected leaders.

“I’m going to do the right thing for the right reasons,” he said.

Alexander, a pastor and former school resource officer, has years of uniting the community for worthy causes. 

“What the Sheriff’s Office needs is a good leader,” he said.

But nothing prepared Citrus County for the avalanche of anti-Prendergast opinion wrought from Michelle Lahera’s guest column in the Citrus County Chronicle.

Lahera’s husband, Andy, is a Sheriff’s school resource officer who was critically injured after being struck by a car while directing traffic during the 2023 Lecanto High School graduation ceremonies. He’s been fighting for his life ever since.

Mrs. Lahera said Prendergast planned to terminate Andy’s employment rather than allow him to stay on the job for health insurance, which a county official said costs the Sheriff’s Office about $8,000 a year.

The column, shared 900 times by readers of the Just Wright Citrus blog, struck a nerve. Thousands of comments flooded local social media sites.

Then, the Sheriff’s Office itself posted on its Facebook page a “Our prayers continue” statement with a photo of Andy. 

“The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office has remained unwaveringly committed to Deputy Lahera during this very difficult journey. It remains our steadfast desire that Andy make a full and complete recovery so that our colleague and dear friend can return to his community and continue to serve as a School Resource Deputy,” the statement reads.

Citizens reacted — over 1,500 comments nearly universal in their criticism of Prendergast.

Numerous comments noted that the Sheriff’s Office’s last public update on Andy Lahera was November 2023. The timing of the post — the day after Michelle Lahera’s column — seemed suspicious to readers.

“Yikes. Probably would have been best to not even make a post,” one person wrote. “To post something like this after Mrs. Lahera’s article feels like a slap in the face. Suffice it to say, Citrus County is disappointed and disgusted in the sheriff’s office to say the least.”


Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated nearly all charges against Gene Himmel were dismissed. The charges were consolidated.

Mike Wright

Mike Wright is a former reporter with the Citrus County Chronicle, where he had covered county government and politics since 1987. Mike's skills as an investigative reporter earned him first-place awards in investigative writing. Mike also helped the Chronicle win the Frances Devore Award for Public Service in 2002.


  • Johnny Alfred Skaggs

    May 28, 2024 at 8:00 am

    I support Sheriff Prendergast, he is the best choice for law and order in Citrus County. In my opinion none of the other candidates are trustworthy.

    • J.L.S.

      May 30, 2024 at 2:08 pm

      A few years ago there was a house in a neighborhood that was called on by many neighbors about drugs. Nothing was ever done or investigated. Thankfully they moved on and it’s all good now but to live with that for years and seeing nothing being done about it only put of of the good hardworking neighbors and their children in danger. We need someone in office that truely knows this county. If you haven’t been here 15 to 20+ yrs and had children go through the schools then you don’t know how this county is or what it needs.

    • Terry

      May 30, 2024 at 11:15 pm

      Bull $$!t

  • Ruth Moberley

    May 28, 2024 at 3:27 pm

    I would Like to see All officers wearing body cams to protect the Citizens and The Officers. If they don’t have anything to hide, then why don’t they invest in them? All surrounding Counties have them!! I’ve Lived here 17 years and have seen some stuff!! My House got shot up daily for 3 years in Lecanto bc I needed a video of this person shooting at me!! The Sheriff’s office kept saying she was crazy… Hello. But doing nothing! Then she shot a kid in the driveway next door. ! We need a New Leader!! Who is Ethical and has integrity, someone who is caring and honest, a Teacher, a mentor, a friend!! Pendergrast isn’t any of these qualities.

    • Johnny Alfred Skaggs

      May 28, 2024 at 10:24 pm

      Are you serious?

  • Kristina

    May 28, 2024 at 7:31 pm

    Unfortunately I voted for him once. Now I will support another candidate that is community oriented and can hold themselves accountable as a good leader does.

  • Dr. Paul John Reinhardt M.D.

    May 29, 2024 at 4:42 pm

    Are Pendicini and his Lavender Group Cronies Supporting Keeping Prendergast?

  • Annie Mills

    June 11, 2024 at 4:14 am

    Sheriffs take an oath to the Constitution of the United States. Doesn’t mean all Sheriffs follow what’s written in it. The country, now more than ever needs CONSITUTIONAL SHERIFFS!
    The future is in all our hands, choose wisely, do your research.

Comments are closed.


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