OKEECHOBEE — Sheriff Noel E. Stephen started out working in the county jail in 1987 and, not long after, was certified as a road deputy. He spent about two and a half years in the jail and approximately five years on road patrol before going into criminal investigations as a detective. He began with property crimes and moved up to sex crimes and then to major crimes. He spent some time doing crime scenes before going back to the road as a supervisor. He went back into investigations to do crime scenes when they lost an evidence technician and a property room clerk.
When Sheriff O.L. Raulerson was re-elected, Noel Stephen became road patrol captain for four years and then spent 12 years as undersheriff for Sheriff Paul May. In 2016, he was elected as sheriff himself.
He is 53 years old, and has 34 years in the department. “I have enjoyed my first tenure as sheriff,” he said. There are still some things he would like to do and grow in the department and in personnel to get them ready for the succession of office, not only for the betterment of the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office itself but also for the betterment of the community.
Being involved in the community has always been important to Sheriff Stephen. “I do it to give back to the community,” he explained. He has always been a “people person” and has dedicated his life to the OCSO and the Okeechobee community.
He raised two children in Okeechobee, and they both still live and work here. He also has two grandchildren who live in Okeechobee.
“I’ve got blood, sweat and tears here, and I love Okeechobee,” he said.
He hopes to be re-elected so he can continue to fulfill his obligation as sheriff to build the department and make it better. He wants to help it grow and prepare it for the future. He would like time to prepare some of the younger staff so they will be ready to take over as the older members retire in the years to come. He would like to prepare his successor so the community can have faith in him or her just as they have faith in Sheriff Stephen. “I feel I owe that to the community, and I look forward to the opportunity to grow someone like I have grown the department. I’m very proud of the men and women I have here. I’ll put them against anybody in the state.”
“I feel I have been blessed to work in every area of the department over the years. I pride myself on knowing every facet of the sheriff’s office,” Sheriff Stephen said. “It has helped me, knowing where the plumbing is to knowing how to work a homicide and everything in between. I feel the person who sits in this chair really needs to know that.”