The sheriff is the highest, law enforcement officer of a county. The population of the county elects the sheriff. A sworn law enforcement officer working for an agency headed by a Sheriff is called a Deputy Sheriff, and is so called because he or she is deputized by the Sheriff to perform the same duties as he or she.
The Sheriff is defined as a "constitutional officer" and derives his legal authority from the Constitution of the State of Florida. The Sheriff is vested with the ability to appoint and direct deputies who will act in his name and office to enforce the appropriate and applicable laws of the State of Florida. Those deputies of the Desoto County Sheriff's Office who are Certified Law Enforcement officers are required to maintain a thorough working knowledge of the laws they enforce and the underlying principals from which they emanate.
DeSoto County came into being in 1887, when Manatee County was divided into DeSoto County and Manatee County. In 1921, DeSoto County was further divided into Highlands, Glades, Hardee, Charlotte, and DeSoto Counties. The first Sheriff of DeSoto County was O. H. Dishong in 1887. He was followed by F. C. Bethea in 1893, A. L. Pearce in 1895, O.H. Dishong, 1897; A. L. Pearce in 1898 L. E. Fielder in 1901, A. C. Freeman in 1905, J. L. Dishong in 1913, J. L. Hampton in 1921, J. E. Albritton in 1937, T. M. Anderson in 1945, Lloyd Holton in 1950, Inez Holton in 1965, Frank Cline in 1966, Robert Thomas in 1981, Joseph Varnadore in 1985, Vernon Keen in 1993, John J. Fugate in 2001 ,Vernon L. Keen in 2005 and William P. Wise in 2009.