Capt. Spenser Bryan.

A lieutenant recently promoted to captain within the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office is back in the Upper Keys community where he grew up. And two lieutenants prepare to deal with unique challenges as they enter new districts.

Sheriff Rick Ramsay recently promoted Key Largo native and current Marathon resident Spenser Bryan to captain of District 7, which covers Ocean Reef, Key Largo and Tavernier. A 12-year member of the sheriff’s office, Bryan was promoted to lieutenant in 2021. The district saw the retirements of Maj. Don Fanelli and Capt. Al Ramirez. Fanelli, who served as commander of the Key Largo district, retired last September following a 35-year career in law enforcement, while Ramirez retired in 2021 following a 32-year career with the sheriff’s office.

Bryan, who’s 34, currently oversees 37 sworn deputies who cover as far north as MM 112.5 on the 18-Mile Stretch to Tavernier Creek Bridge. He started his career on the road patrolling Big Pine Key and Stock Island. After three years, he became a detective within the criminal investigations unit there. 

He worked several years as road patrol sergeant in Marathon. He was then promoted to detective sergeant of the criminal investigations unit in the Middle Keys for eight months. He was transferred to special operations sergeant for nine months and then to lieutenant of detectives. 

A former student of Key Largo School and graduate of Coral Shores High School, Bryan said it’s nice to be back as commanding officer. 

“It’s the coolest thing driving around and seeing my old teachers,” he said. “A lot of them are principals now, Laura Lietaert, Darren Pais and Lisa Taylor.”

Ramsay said Bryan worked alongside Fanelli before he retired to get experience as a patrol lieutenant. Once Fanelli left, Ramsay moved Capt. Don Hiller up from the Marathon district to mentor Bryan and see if he had what it took to be a patrol captain. 

“I think he’s done a great job,” Ramsay said of Bryan. “He’s been active in my community. He’s done everything I asked him to do. I made a decision after looking at some other lieutenants, all who could have done the job, but I felt at this point in time he was the best person for this position.”

Spenser Bryan is the son of retired Maj. Corey Bryan, who retired in early January 2021 following 34 years with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office. Corey Bryan served as commanding officer of the Islamorada district. And Spenser Bryan’s mom, Peggy, also retired from the sheriff’s office after serving 32 years as a records supervisor for offices in Islamorada and Key Largo. 

Bryan said he’s excited to carry on the family legacy of serving the Upper Keys communities. 

“I hope people in the Upper Keys love and respect me as much as they have and still do for my dad and mom,” Spenser Bryan said. 

In addition to his duties as commander for District 7, Bryan will be taking over as commander of Monroe County’s SWAT team. He formerly served as assistant team leader to the SWAT team commander.

From left, Capt Spenser Bryan and Lt. Chuck Kellenberger. JIM McCARTHY/Keys Weekly

Joining Bryan at District 7 is Lt. Chuck Kellenberger.  He previously served three years as lieutenant for the Islamorada district. Kellenberger’s law enforcement career spans 27 years. A Marathon resident, he worked in Key Largo for a brief period in the 90s, but the majority of his time was spent in Marathon. He’s served as road patrol sergeant, detective sergeant of major crimes and field training officer. 

“To me it’s a challenge, but it’s a good challenge,” Kellenberger said. “It’s going to be a really good thing to be exposed to a bigger area with more responsibilities and work, and working with a great group of team members.”

The complaints heard in Islamorada are similar to the ones in Key Largo, he said. 

“Like anything else, the No. 1 complaint is traffic. It’s true whether it’s Islamorada or Key Largo.”

Ramsay said he selected the seasoned lieutenant in Kellenberger to help the new captain. 

Bryan said District 7 has a higher call volume than anywhere else due to the number of weekenders and day trippers coming from Miami-Dade County.

“That’s our biggest challenge. It’s the weekenders coming down and people drinking. It’s the No. 1 crime. Everything is associated with drinking.” 

Bryan and Kellenberger say they’re excited to be teaming up to serve the Upper Keys residents. 

“I’ve known him for so long. He has a strong work ethic like his dad did,” Kellenberger said. 

“I’m looking forward to working with Chuck,” Bryan said. “We’re both local guys who grew up in the Keys. It will be nice to have two people that really understand the Monroe County community and provide the best service we can.”

Taking Kellenberger’s spot in Islamorada is Lt. Charlene Sprinkle. Ramsay said he believed Sprinkle would fit best in Islamorada with a seasoned patrol captain in Derek Paul. 

“I’m thankful for Sheriff Ramsay giving me the opportunity to fill this position,” she said. “I’m looking forward to working with my colleagues and the community.”

She grew up in Marathon and was a cadet with the sheriff’s office during her days at Marathon High School. Upon graduation, she was hired as a communications officer in 1994. She was there for six years before she entered the law enforcement academy in Key West. 

After graduation, Sprinkle worked road patrol in Marathon. She was the crime scene detective and general crimes detective. Sprinkle was then promoted to sergeant road patrol in the Lower Keys. Sprinkle has been the lieutenant of the 911 center in Marathon for the past 10 years. 

Lt. Charlene Sprinkle.

June 6 was Sprinkle’s first day as lieutenant of road patrol in Islamorada. She is no stranger to the Islamorada district. She has participated in cleanups with the sheriff’s office at Indian Key Fill and she’s also participated in various community events. 

Sprinkle said she’s excited to be working with the deputies. She’s also excited to be learning from her colleagues Kellenberger and Paul, all of whom grew up in Marathon and went to Marathon High School.

“Our families go way back, both the Kellenbergers and the Pauls and my family,” she said.

And she’s also excited to work alongside Bryan, who she knew before he became a deputy. 

“We’re all here to help him as well,” she said.

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Jim McCarthy is a northerner who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since his graduation from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 3 years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. Behind every community is resiliency and resolve in difficult times. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim serves as President of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. “It’s a group that lives by the motto ‘Service Above Self,’” he says. “We’ve done service projects at the Tavernier nursing home, sitting down and socializing with residents. “We’ve also supplied cameras to young students exploring the Keys ecosystem.” Jim loves sports, family and time exploring underneath the water depths.