Capt. Tres Edenfield of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office took over leadership of the Northeast District in January after Commander Scott Beaver was named a director. In July, he made headlines for his part in the rescue of a man whose car went into a pond near the Publix Super Market at Sawgrass Village. Recently, Edenfield spoke with The Recorder about his background, philosophy and commitment to the community.
When did you first know you wanted to pursue this career?
As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to go into law enforcement.
When I came home from college, I went right to the academy [the St. Johns River State College Law Enforcement Academy]. After graduating, I started here in St. Johns in November of 2001.
If I didn’t do this, I have no earthly idea what I would do. I don’t want to do anything else.
Tell me about your career.
I got in this job to be a cop. I wanted to be a patrol cop. I’ve always been a road guy. I like the camaraderie with the troops. And I’m very much still full of that special drive to be in the middle of everything.
In 2003, I tried out and was on the SWAT team. It was probably one of the most rewarding things I’ve done. I spent 15 years on the team.
During that time, I stayed in patrol. I got promoted to sergeant in the Southeast District.
A few years later, I was promoted to lieutenant. I was the district lieutenant up here under Commander Beaver at the time, now Director Beaver.
I went to watch commander in patrol, meaning I had my own shift as a lieutenant in the North Region. Was promoted out of that into where I am now.
My philosophy with leadership is: Lead from the front and prove to your men and women that you love them first of all, win their hearts and their minds. It helps to lead the troops when they know they’re taken care of and they trust you.
So, when pressing matters are in front of us, and I’m making judgement calls, they don’t even hesitate.
I’m very much for the troops. They’re what make this place work. Without them, you don’t have people coming to help you.
What do you like most about what you do?
The troops, being a part of them.
I was raised by a father who had a very decorated career in the U.S. Coast Guard. So, I had the benefit of being raised by a man who also started at the bottom and worked his way up through leadership, then started his own business in Jacksonville.
In this day and age, employee turnover’s huge. You have somebody for a few weeks and then they’re gone. My dad never had that. The men that worked for him and knew me as a child were there in ’08 when he died. Speaks volumes to me. But if you go back and look at that, it’s how he took care of them.
I love what we get to do, helping people. It’s very satisfying when you make a difference. Even if it’s a small difference.
Of course, sometimes we have to do what, to the civilian, are very violent acts – justified, within state statute and Sheriff’s Office policy, but to the person that doesn’t understand it, they’re very violent. And sometimes, having to use that type of force or something with another human being is helping another person. But we don’t take pride in that. The men and women in this agency love to do good for people.
We’re very fortunate. I guarantee 90% of this county loves the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. It blows my mind how people are like, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” You think about our brothers and sisters in New York, in Portland, Seattle, Minnesota – these people are getting bricks thrown at them. Spit on.
You know, we have a governor that loves us. He took the federal money and gave every law enforcement member or first responder $1,000.
And we have a sheriff whose vision is: I will be engrained into this community. This community will not just see us showing up when a crime’s been committed. It will be school functions and community functions and things where the community can relate to us.
What do you do in your free time?
I have five kids. All of them but one barrel-race competitively. I don’t. But I saddle horses and feed horses and pet horses.
And then, I make it a point to get into the gym every day and try to keep myself as healthy and as in-shape as possible.
I hunt during hunting season.
I read a lot. I read everything. I just finished my fifth book on the units that went into Afghanistan after 9/11.
My dad read incessantly. He was like, “If you want to stay sharp until you die, read.”
Do you have a message for our readers?
I am very much involved in the community. I am here to make sure their needs – the needs that we can meet – are met.
We can’t solve everyone’s problem, but we’re sure going to try.
The troops know this. They know my expectations that our citizens are who we represent. That’s who we’re sworn in to protect. That’s who our sheriff is elected to serve, which means we also serve them.
I’ve developed some very good partnerships with a lot of people. And that’s what I want to continue to do: build relationships.
Working here as I have over the last four years, it’s been very rewarding.
But overall, our goal is to help. That’s what I’m here for, to do what I can.