PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Sheriff Tommy Ford was recently recognized for his career accomplishments.

He was awarded the Leroy Collins Lifetime Achievements Award by the Association of Florida Colleges on behalf of Gulf Coast State College. Ford says the award came as a total surprise. 

“I was just really surprised and humbled by it.”

The Leroy Collins Lifetime Achievement Award recognizes alumni with career achievements at local, state, and national levels. Gulf Coast State College President Glen McDonald said Ford was an easy pick. 

“He has done all of that, and it was easy to document his 31-year law enforcement career at all of those levels. He just had a breadth that no one else in our genre could compete with this year.”

Ford spent 18 years of his career serving as a Special Agent for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. He investigated violent crimes, major drug crimes, public integrity issues, and officer-involved shootings. Ford was elected Bay County Sheriff in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. Aside from his career successes, Ford is better known for his character. 

“Fighting crime is hard and he fights relentlessly against crime,” said McDonald. “He is really compassionate with the victims and responsive to all of us, all of our citizens in Bay County. I thought it was our duty and our privilege to nominate him.”

One nominee is chosen from each state college in Florida and an overall winner is selected. The award is held biannually and is highly competitive. Ford is the first to receive the award on behalf of Gulf Coast State College. 

“I’ve just been so touched by it and the phone calls from people that I respect as leaders in the community,” said Ford. “We’ve seen some of the news coverage of the award and it’s just really a blessing for me to be able to serve here.”

Some of Sheriff Ford’s former leadership roles include Operations Commander and Chief Deputy for the Bay County Sheriff’s Office.