Amos, Beers in race to replace Cuba as FOP leader
Nelson Cuba was the face — and the force — of the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police for years.
Along the way, he had public tussles with politicians, made passionate pleas about protecting benefits for union members and left a trail of bruised opponents.
And then came March.
Cuba and his first vice president Robbie Freitas were among the 57 people arrested in the Allied Veterans of the World gambling investigation.
Soon afterward, Steve Amos was named interim president of the FOP.
Amos and Rob Beers are the candidates hoping to fill that role for the next two years.
Members of the FOP are making their choices for new leaders — from president to treasurer to board of directors — in a weeklong vote that ends Tuesday afternoon. Union members can cast their votes in several locations, including the FOP lodge, the sheriff's office and the jail.
Amos and Beers have several similarities: They're sergeants who have been with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office for 21 years and have served the FOP in several capacities.
And they both know succeeding Cuba brings a few challenges, including mending some fences and rebuilding the FOP's public reputation with lawmakers and in the public.
Amos said he's been able to repair relationships with some City Council members who had a strained relationship with Cuba. (He wouldn't identify those council members.)
He also said he's been working to restore people's confidence in the FOP lodge.
Beers agrees Cuba and Freitas' arrests left the lodge in a bad spot. "Any time a police officer is arrested, every police officer gets a black eye," he said.
The next FOP president will lead negotiations for a new contract to replace the one that expires in September.
Both Amos and Beers talked about the importance of the union members getting a pay increase after taking a pay cut for the last contract and receiving no increase in contracts before that.
Beers pointed out that the Sheriff's Office is spending money and energy to train officers for a couple of years, and then losing them to departments, such as Tampa, that will pay them $20,000 more per year.
Amos also wants members to have more choices for insurance options.
Previously, there were three providers; now there is one.
The FOP is not the negotiator for pension benefits, but supports the work of the pension board.
Both also want the union to maintain its presence as a political force in local elections.
The union's endorsement has long been sought after by candidates.
"I think the stronger we are politically, the stronger we are as a union," Beers said.
Amos said despite the issues with Cuba and Freitas, candidates know "we're constituents and we're constituents willing to work."
Years with JSO: 21
FOP experience: Interim president. Served many other roles, including trustee, secretary, board of directors and second vice president.
Years with JSO: 21
FOP experience: Political Action Committee, contract negotiation team and board of directors