The high heels Kaitlyn Perez regularly wears to work, where she overseas media relations and communications for the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, are more than a fashion statement.
Perez is also part of the leadership team with the agency, where she helps oversee a $132 million budget and advises the elected Sheriff, Kurt Hoffman, on personnel and strategic decisions. “It’s not traditional to have a woman in that role,” Perez says, “and I need to be seen on my own two feet.”
Those heels not only help Perez see eye-to-eye with her peers and colleagues. It’s also given her a sense of confidence in what can be a grueling job, where the spotlight is often bright. Perez and her department are on call 24 hours a day, responsible for relaying what’s happening at crime scenes or catastrophic events to the public in a timely and transparent manner. It requires juggling tasks and quick thinking, and is something Perez calls “the most challenging and rewarding career I ever could’ve chosen.”
Perez’s role in the past 18 months or so has also taken on a heightened sense of urgency, as one of her tasks, she says, is to “manage the image of the agency in a world where law enforcement is highly, highly scrutinized.”
Perez has been with the Sheriff’s Office since 2014 and during her career she’s worked closely with Hoffman, who moved up the ranks before being elected to his first term in 2020. She considers Hoffman a key mentor in her career. “He’s always leading with integrity,” Perez says. “I’ve learned from him that the right way to do something is the only way to do something.”
Perez has also learned from Hoffman that even in a post like a top law enforcement official, where there are sometimes no gray areas, it’s important to lead with humanity and empathy. “You could wander in his office and have a conversation about anything under the sun and he will take the time to try to help you,” Perez says.
Perez graduated from USF with a major in communications and a minor in criminal justice. She worked for Sarasota County before the Sheriff’s Office, where, among other roles, she taught a civics 101 class about the inner workings of local government. It was there where she learned more about the communications department at the Sheriff’s Office, and “I said ‘this is what I want to do.’”
One perk of her role is she sometimes gets to work alongside her dad, Ed McCrane, director of the Sarasota County Emergency Management department. Another perk is she has connected her job to another passion, in volunteering for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota & Desoto Counties. She’s a corporate board member, safety task force committee chair and Club Blue founding chair. Through all those positions her main role is as an unwavering advocate for the club’s programs and actives. “I like to say all we have to do is get people in the door because once they see it they are drinking the Kool-Aid,” Perez says. “The results speak for themselves.”
City of Residence: Sarasota
Employer: Sarasota County Sheriff's Office
Title: Community Affairs Director/Spokeswoman
Birthplace: Tampa, Florida
Years in the area: 16
Marital Status/Children: Married, one son
Alma Mater/Degree: University of South Florida, Bachelor’s Degree in Communication, Criminology Minor
What community group or organization are you most involved with?
Corporate Board Member, Safety Task Force Committee Chair, and Club Blue Founding Chair for The Boys & Girls Clubs of Sarasota & Desoto Counties
What's the weirdest job you've ever had? Being a 21-year-old substitute teacher to a group of high school seniors!
What's your top tip for being productive? Close your door. I know this goes against every management philosophy of having an “open-door policy” but trust me, the magic happens when I put my head down, shut out distractions, and get in the zone.
If you could have a side hustle, what would it be? 100% operating a food truck with my husband.
What's your favorite off-hours activity? Peloton, brewery, travel (and not necessarily in that order!)
Have you gone to the movies in 2021? If yes, what did you see? Yes! Black Widow. Who doesn’t love a strong, fiery, female Avenger?
What's the top item on your bucket list? Travel the 50 states in an RV
What's your favorite podcast? Currently listening to HBR: Women at Work and NPR’s How I Built This.
Where is your happy place? Anywhere with my son!
Describe yourself in three words: Bold, passionate, driven.
Who is your mentor for your career and why? My boss, Sheriff Kurt Hoffman. He is a daily reminder of strong, ethical leadership. Since 2014, he has helped me grow tremendously by leading by example and giving me countless opportunities to learn and evolve in my own leadership.
What are the biggest lessons you have learned from your mentor?
• Never bring a problem to the table without also bringing a solution.
• Making a decision is better than being indecisive. We can always reflect on how to do better after the fact but not making a decision gets us nowhere.
• Never ask your team to do anything you aren’t willing to do yourself.
• Set the bar high. Then set it higher.