Sheriff Clovis Watson, Jr.
Former City Manager of the City of Alachua, FL, Clovis Watson, Jr., is proud to have dedicated thirty years in public service to the City of Alachua; a career that spanned from working as a law enforcement officer to his retirement from the position of City Manager in 2010. Watson was, and continues to be, a visionary for Alachua County, and has been a longtime community contributor through his volunteerism with several local organizations.
He assumed the top administrative position with the City in 2002. He was instrumental and tireless in the transformation of Alachua from a community splintered by discord and partisan bickering to a model city that runs with the efficiency and economy of a well-run business. His constant refrain was that he did not make easy choices, but always did what he thought was right for the community – words he continues to stand by, even today.
Watson’s tireless efforts to make Alachua a self-sustainable and self-sufficient entity, attracted large corporate partners with many jobs, a college campus, many small businesses, both new and relocated from other area communities, as well as created policies for the existing small and medium businesses to thrive, which he believes are the cornerstone of our respective communities. He made his goal of being able to live, learn, work and thrive without leaving Alachua a reality. This was accomplished with much deliberation and foresight—the end result being a community with abundant employment opportunities and better prospects for all; a community that attracts businesses and homeowners for the quaint beauty of the city, and the chance to prosper in a welcoming environment.
Watson attended school locally and is a graduate of Mebane Middle School and Santa Fe High School. He has championed higher education with several degrees to his name. Watson has earned an Associate of Science Degree, a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Arts Degree, two Master’s degrees; one in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Public Administration and the second in Business Administration (MBA). He is a PhD doctoral candidate in Business Administration, and is also a graduate of Harvard University John F. Kennedy Graduate School of Government Executive Education Leadership for the 21st Century program. Perhaps more impressive is the fact that he pursued and achieved his continuing education goals, with honors, while continuing to work full-time and support his family. He also served as an adjunct professor, and is a member of the Alpha Lambda Delta Honorary Society, the Pinnacle Honor Society and Delta Mu Delta International honor society, upon being invited to become a member for his outstanding academic achievements. Watson was also inducted into the most prestigious leadership honorary, The Florida Blue Key.
Growing up in the projects of Alachua, Watson is no stranger to hard work. He spent many days in the fields harvesting cucumber, tobacco, watermelon, squash, etc. to earn money. His school clothes, supplies and extra-curricular money was earned by working afterschool at the packing shed and was employed with Copeland Sausage Company after graduating from high school. Watson began working for the City of Alachua over 30 years ago in the Police Department. He moved up the ranks from Police Officer, to Sergeant and finally Deputy Chief of Police prior to taking over the reins as City Manager of the City of Alachua in 2002. During his tenure as City Manager, he guided the City to unprecedented fiscal stability with recognition in City budgets and high bond ratings. Watson exercised great environmental stewardship; as a result, the City received numerous environmental awards for water conservation, policies protecting the aquifer, best drinking water contest in the region, etc. He was also instrumental in attracting major companies to Alachua as well as a Santa Fe College satellite campus that opened in 2009. Under his administration, the Alachua Police Department opened a Police Substation in Merrillwood and created numerous citizen advisory boards and committees to ensure that all citizens had a voice in the community of Alachua.
He was a pioneer for many “firsts” in the Good Life Community…the first African American Sergeant and Deputy Chief for the Alachua Police Department, and later the first African American City Manager for the City of Alachua. He also championed many other “firsts”…he hired the first African American Chief of Police for the Alachua Police Department, and was the first to hire two women Assistant City Managers, both of whom are now respected City Managers themselves. Watson played a vital role in the community not only through his professional endeavors but also through his activism with area organizations. He is former a member of the Board of Directors for the American Red Cross North Central Florida Chapter. He sat on the Board of Directors for the Alachua County United Way, Juvenile Justice Council, and Police Executive Council, as well as the Alachua County Task Force of Administrators and the Police Executive Training Committee. Mr. Watson served on the steering committee for the Alachua County Child Advocacy Center at its infancy, and is a former member of the Florida City and County Managers’ Association and the International City Managers’ Association. He is a longtime volunteer and supporter of the Special Olympics, Alachua County Victim Advocate Program, as well as an unwavering supporter of Santa Fe College.
While Watson remains proud of all of his accomplishments and accolades, he maintains that giving back to the community has always been the best reward. He spearheaded several holiday programs that are committed to giving to those who are less fortunate and the senior citizens of his community, and also initiated the first ever community policing project for the Alachua Police Department, by putting officers on bicycle patrol. The Alachua Police Explorer program was also started by Watson, which provides teens training and exposure to a future career in law enforcement.
Over the years, Watson has received special recognition from various organizations. He was awarded the Governor’s Peace at Home Award by the late Governor Lawton Chiles for his efforts to curb and educate others about domestic violence. In 2006, he received the Public Servant of the Year award by the Florida Democratic Black Caucus. The Gainesville Lodge of Fraternal Order of Police presented him with the Administrator of the Year award in 2008, and in 2009 the Alachua Chamber of Commerce presented him with the Lifetime Achievement Award. He was recognized with awards by Kappa Alpha Psi on several occasions for Community Service, Achievement and Outstanding Leadership & Service. The Department of Veteran Affairs of North Florida/Southern Georgia presented him with a Certificate of Appreciation for volunteerism for our veterans and was awarded the Rev. Dr. T. A. Wright Award from the NAACP.
A Leadership Scholarship Fund was established in his honor by the A.L. Mebane Alumni Association, Inc. This organization also recognized him with a Dedication Award for Commitment to the Citizens of the City of Alachua and Alachua County, a Lifetime Membership Award and Community Service Award. Watson was presented an Outstanding Leadership Award by the Gainesville African American and Cultural Society. The University of Alabama recognized him with the Alice Parker Award for Outstanding Work in the Humanities. In 2012, he received the Democrat of the Year award from the Alachua County Democratic Black Caucus, and also the Courage award from Greater New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. The City of Alachua recognized Watson by naming the street in front of the housing projects where he grew up in his honor – NW 132nd Place is now “Clovis Watson, Jr. Way.” Watson served as a guiding light for Alachua and continues to be a true champion for his community.
In 2012, Clovis Watson, Jr. decided to continue his service to the community by seeking to run for public office. His strong believe in advocating for improved education coupled with his desire to bring and create clean jobs to Florida for the unemployed and under-employed fueled his decision. After a successful campaign, he was elected in November 2012 to the office of State Representative for District 20. Representative Watson’s vast experiences in local government, environment, and law enforcement along with his passion for improved education and access to healthcare for all is reflected in the committees he selected and was chosen to serve on. During his tenure in the Legislature, Clovis Watson served on various committees including State Affairs, Agriculture & Natural Resources Appropriations, Agriculture & Natural Resources, Economic Development & Tourism, Criminal Justice and Health Quality subcommittees.
From the beginning, Representative Watson endeavored to make a difference for the constituents of District 20. He worked hard on legislative environmental and water issues to prevent some of the more egregious actions proposed to become law. He stood proud with his Democratic colleagues in their fight to take federal dollars to expand Medicaid to cover over 1million plus Floridians, stop the attack on the Florida Retirement System and provide raises for state employees and first responders. For his efforts in preserving the middle class and protecting the working poor, Representative was honored by Florida Watch Action, Progress Florida and America Votes as a “2013, 2014, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020 Middle Class Champion”. He was also named a “Champion for Agriculture” by Florida Farm Bureau for his role in working to protect Florida’s Agriculture and a 2017 Florida Association of Counties Champion. In addition, he received the Alachua County Harry S. Truman ‘The Buck Stops Here’ Award at their 2013 annual Outstanding Democrats Award Luncheon. In 2020, Clovis Watson was named a Legislative Champion by the Big Brother Big Sisters Association of Florida. Representative Watson has served as the Chair of the Alachua County Delegation, the Democratic Whip for the 2015-2016 Legislative term and Democratic ranking member for the State Affairs committee for the 2015-2016 Legislative term.
After serving the citizens of the state of Florida for eight years in the Florida Legislature, Watson realized that there was still more service to do. He launched his campaign for Sheriff of Alachua County in August of 2019. Clovis Watson ran a very successful campaign and was elected Sheriff in Alachua County on August 18, 2020. He was officially sworn in on January 5, 2021 and currently serves in that capacity.