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Eric Aden sworn in as new Okaloosa County sheriff

Kevin Robinson
Northwest Florida Daily News

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden was sworn in Tuesday morning.

Aden, a veteran law enforcement officer with more than 20 years of experience at the OCSO, ran unopposed in the November 2020 election. He takes the helm from Larry Ashley, who retired after a 10-year tenure as sheriff.

Speaking to a small audience limited to deputies, other OCSO workers and immediate family members because of COVID-19, Aden said taking the stage to be sworn in as sheriff was the fulfillment of a lifelong dream.

"This dream started for me 36 years ago when I was 13 years old," he said. "I feel very, very blessed that I knew what I wanted to do at an early age."

Aden said as a child he had a fascination with law enforcement officers, but as an adult he has realized the profession is a true calling. He said it was an honor and privilege to be able to protect and serve the people of the place he calls home.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden is joined by his wife, Mandy, as he is sworn in by Okaloosa Clerk of Court JD Peacock on Tuesday.

"I was born and raised right here," Aden said. "I've built relationships my whole life with people in the community from all walks of life."

Aden began his career as a deputy in 1995, patrolling the southern portion of Okaloosa County and serving as a school resource officer. 

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Throughout his career, Aden served in an array of roles, including leadership positions in the OCSO's Judicial Services, Criminal Investigations Division and Operations Bureau. He also spent 10 years, including a period where he split time as a deputy and working in mortgage banking and finance, experience he said has been invaluable in helping him manage the Sheriff's Office's budget and finances.

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden speaks at his swearing-in ceremony Tuesday as outgoing Sheriff Larry Ashley looks on.

Aden credited Ashley with bringing incredible integrity to the OCSO, and called him "one of the greatest leaders I've ever known."

Speaking of his own tenure, Aden said he would focus on three main "pillars of success" as sheriff: hiring qualified people, emphasizing leadership that demands transparent and excellent service to the communities they serve, and maintaining outstanding community support.

Outgoing Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashely (left) and newly-sworn Sheriff Eric Aden stand with the agency's color guard Tuesday.

"I don't know anywhere in America that we have a better support group ... and the core values of every demographic, neighborhood in the community is they want to be safe," Aden said. "That's all I hear out there, 'Are you going to keep us safe the way Larry Ashley did?' That's the No. 1 goal out here, and that's what we have to do."

Okaloosa County Sheriff Eric Aden is joined by his wife, Mandy, as he is sworn in by Okaloosa Clerk of Court JD Peacock on Tuesday.

He continued, "We're not going to tolerate blurred lines between good and evil. We will draw the line in the sand and hold that line to protect our citizens from evil. It's what they want and expect and we will provide it."

The OCSO has 459 sworn and civilian personnel. With Aden's advancement to sheriff, the new OCSO undersheriff is Charlie Nix and the new chief deputy is Ken LaPee.