There are 14 candidates vying to become the first elected sheriff in Miami-Dade County in nearly 60 years – but only one who can be found on Key Biscayne Sunday mornings in front of the choir at St. Christopher’s-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.
John Barrow, who is a major in charge of the personnel management bureau, has been the director of music at the church for the last 11 years. He launched his campaign officially on Dec. 1 on Key Biscayne.
“I’ve always loved music ever since I was a little kid,” Barrow said. “As a musician, you have to work with multiple people who each have a little bit to play in the whole piece. As a conductor, especially, you bring them all together and make sure we’re playing the same thing at the same time.”
Sounds like the start of a campaign slogan.
Barrow grew up in Carol City but his mother was a private duty nurse for a part-time Key Biscayne resident. When the patient flew up north for the summer, Barrow and his mother would house sit.
While experiencing how it was for those with means on Key Biscayne, Barrow experienced first-hand how it was for those in need in Carol City.
“I saw crime from the victim’s perspective. My neighbor’s house was broken into. My parents had their car stolen multiple times,” said Barrow, 40, “The house down the street where they were, it was a rental property, and the tenants were selling drugs.”
He remembers his family and neighbors wanted a good quality life. “We were not criminals and the police were there to help us,” he said. “So I went to college and came back and joined up with the police department.”
Barrow pursued his other passion – music – at Oberlin College in Ohio, an institution known for its conservatory, studying organ performance. When he returned to Florida as a graduate, his thoughts returned to policing.
“I tried to get my oldest sister to apply so I can live vicariously through her,” Barrow said. She got as far as orientation. Barrow excelled during his training and joined the Miami-Dade Police Department in 2007.
Numerous promotions followed: sergeant in 2012, lieutenant in 2016, captain in 2019 and major in 2020. He has worn many hats in the department, the eighth-largest in the nation — field training coordinator, general investigations unit commander, department discipline coordinator. As a major, he oversaw the Hammocks District.
Now, Barrow basically oversees human resources for Miami-Dade police, handling the hiring, firing and union negotiations, among other things. He feels he has the experience to show voters he knows how to run all aspects of the department.
He threw his hat into the ring at a time of tragedy for the department, though. Miami-Dade Police Director Manny Ramirez – once considered the front-runner for the elected office – shot himself in the head on Interstate 75 in July.
Ramirez survived and will return to the force next year as a consultant to prepare for the transition of an elected sheriff. Miami-Dade voters in 2021 chose to go back to an elected sheriff after the electorate abolished the position in 1966 following years of corruption.
It is also a partisan race and Barrow is one of four candidates running as a Democrat. You can see the other candidates by clicking here.
Barrow said he had a good relationship with Ramirez.
“He must have seen leadership qualities in me because he’s the one who promoted me to major as one of his first things as our new director,” he said.
He also said he called Mayor Daniella Levine Cava to tell her he was going to run for sheriff. He calls Levine Cava the second most famous Democrat in the state following Nikki Fried, the former Agricultural Commissioner who now leads the state Democratic party.
Barrow said he’s well aware traffic snarls on the Rickenbacker Causeway are the biggest issue irking Key Biscayne residents, especially during events – he’s been stuck in them himself.
“Something does need to be done because there are many special events on Virginia Key and at the Marine Stadium and these events create huge delays for residents,” he said. “As Sheriff, I will work with all stakeholders, including the Village, to ensure a robust traffic plan is implemented and included as a part of any planned special event.”
Another concern on the Rickenbacker is safety.
“We know speeding is a problem,” Barrow said. “We know bicyclists have been hit. The county has done a lot of things with just traffic control.”