BY BUDDY NEVINS
Former Sheriff Ken Jenne is emerging after his harrowing stint in the pen.
Getting together with old friends. Meeting former acquaintances like me.
I’ve known Jenne since he was a prosecutor. Thirty five years ago.
Since before he was the charter commissioner director, a county commissioner, a state senator and sheriff.
We go back a long way and I’ll tell you straight: I’ve always admired his political skills and his ability to get things done.
I know he is controversial. I’ve heard for years he can be vengeful against political enemies. Mean-spirited and nasty
Still, I think he has accomplished a great deal for Broward County. His imprint is on the university system, the roads, public safety and even our commission form of government.
So when Jenne asked me to breakfast recently, I jumped at the chance.
Jenne talked exclusively with Browardbeat.com about life in behind bars, what he is doing now and the future.
He seemed to want to talk about his year in federal prison for corruption. He says it was no picnic.
He was in solitary a portion of the time, both to protect him and to harass him.
He calls the notorious Atlanta pen “filthy.
Jenne had to stuff paper in the crack at the base of the door to keep the rats from his cell. If he put his food down for more than five minutes, roaches got to it.
During his time in custody, Jenne was shuffled around the country from jail to jail.
Miami. Detroit. Atlanta. Lee County.
All that moving in just a year seems like a big waste of money to me.
He described the Lee County facility outside of Fort Myers. He says it is filled with convicts busted on mostly simple drug crimes.
Blacks arrested in places like Washington, D. C. Rural whites nabbed possessing meth along sleepy stretches of West Virginia and Tennessee.
It was his first real experience with the meth users. Broward doesn’t have a major meth problem, he says.
How much does the sheriff come in contact with drug users, except as statistics? Jail was an eye opener.
The stories he heard about the inability of the users to free themselves of meth convinced him: The man who invented methamphetamine should be put to death.
Jenne was never really threatened in prison. He says he got along fine with most of the inmates, especially the blacks.
The experience humbled him. Made him appreciate life more.
He’s moving on.
Although he lost his ticket, his license to practice law, he got a good job.
Scott Rothstein, the downtown Fort Lauderdale lawyer, took him in.
Jenne called Rothstein generous. The former sheriff says he was getting “a fair salary, but not an extravagant one. I hear the low six figures.
He doesn’t lobby, he says emphatically.
He gives Rothstein’s numerous clients’ political advice if they need it. He suggests strategies on working with government.
The clients are lucky. He’s got more than three decades of experience in politics to offer.
It’s been a big fall for Jenne.
He’s not at all bitter. I know I wouldn’t take it that well.
Jenne lost his pension.
He lost his profession. He says he probably will never practice law again because by the time he can reapply to the Florida Bar, he’ll be in his late 60s.
He lost his chauffeur and now drives himself in a Toyota.
He lost the status of being the most powerful political figure in Broward.
But still, he knows he has a lot to be thankful for.
He has friends who have stood by him.
He has his family. He dotes on his son, state Rep. Evan Jenne. He mentioned Evan a half dozen times in an hour.
He looks healthy, maybe because he eats healthy. One poached egg and dry wheat toast for breakfast.
Most of all, Jenne still has a lot more to contribute.
He vows to stay involved.
Only this time, from behind-the-scenes. At least, initially.