"This was a close race, Mr. Ward has served the citizens of Oregon County for four terms, and I would like to thank him for his many years of dedicated service to our communities. I look forward to serving the citizens of Oregon County and I do not take my responsibility to the citizens lightly. I would like to thank my family and my friends and the many citizens of the county for their encouragement, prayers and support during my campaign. Without them, I would not have won this election. I pledge to give the residents of Oregon County my best and look forward to being their sheriff," he said.
Underwood is a 1975 graduate of Couch High School and is 51-years old. He and his wife Debbie have been married 23 years and they have a daughter, Amy, who will be a sophomore this fall at the University of West Florida.
After graduating high school, Underwood enlisted in the Army and was stationed at Fort Campbell, Ky., and for a short period of time in Germany and Panama.
He came back to this area and worked at a wire drawing factory for eight months in Osceola, Ark.
Underwood moved to Florida in 1980 and went to work for the Florida Department of Corrections. He has 160 hours of basic recruit training and his first job was working with youth offenders.
In 1985, a new prison opened in Martin County, Fla. "This was an adult state prison that housed 1,300 men. I worked as the housing sargeant. In 1988, I was promoted to lieutenant and worked as a shift supervisor and managed riot and disorder control at a prison named Indian River Correctional," Underwood said.
In 1994, he was promoted to major at Fort Pierce Prison and worked in the work release center. "This was an 84 man facility and I assisted offenders that were being released from prison obtain employment. I also oversaw substance abuse programs," he said.
Underwood was promoted to and worked as chief of security at the Henry Correction Institution and then transfered to Century Correctional Institution where he served as assistant warden.
In 2006, Underwood transfered to Calhoun Correctional Facility as assistant warden. He retired from there in 2007.
He said he had always considered Oregon County home.
"I want to establish a citizen advisory committee. We can work out issues together and they can help advise me," he said.
Underwood said he didn't plan on any changes at the sheriff's office.
"I do think the staff needs more training and the county needs to provide our officers with vehicles instead of them using their own. We also need county insurance and a bonding agent," he said.
"The office will have a grooming and dress standard. I want them to appear as professionals. I plan to lead by example and hope the staff will follow," Underwood said.
Underwood said he intends to train his officers in areas such as how to handle a house break-in and is concerned with the meth issue in the county.
"We are going to work together and I am looking forward to learning together. If I had a long range plan it would be to get the sheriff's office off the third floor. I want to reach out to the people in the community. More heads are better than one. I've got a lot to learn and I am looking forward to it," he said.