Mission accomplished, Frank McKeithen retires as Chief Investigator

Career lawman Frank McKeithen, who came out of retirement to assist with the transition for the man he supported for State Attorney during the 2020 election, accomplished that and more and is now retiring as Chief Investigator for the 14th Judicial Circuit.

McKeithen, Bay County’s Sheriff for 13 years until his 2016 retirement, said there wasn’t much that could have pulled him back into fulltime work. But being there for his longtime friend and peer Larry Basford as he transitioned from Chief Assistant State Attorney to the top job as State Attorney was enough.

“The plan was not a long-term plan to begin with, we both knew that and talked about that,” McKeithen said. “I felt the same passion in me that I saw in him, and I’ve been in charge before and I know how difficult that can be sometimes when you’re first taking over, and I thought maybe I could help.”

State Attorney Larry Basford, left, and Chief Investigator Frank McKeithen shared memories and smiles Monday in Basford’s office on McKeithen’s last day.

“What I got to see, the really, really good thing, is to see him go from an elected State Attorney to what I consider The State Attorney, he has earned that job,” McKeithen continued. “It really didn’t take me long to see that he had it, he had control of it, and it was very, very impressive.”

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McKeithen’s law enforcement career spanned 43 years before his Aug. 1, 2016, retirement from the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, and included serving as sheriff in both Bay and Gulf counties.

“Frank McKeithen is a living legend,” Basford said. “His passion to seek justice in every situation is evident and has been an inspiration for all of us at the State Attorney’s Office. Frank’s positive outlook, his way of showing people he cares, and his wisdom will be truly missed.”
“I am forever grateful for the advice and the help Frank has given me during my career and this transition period,” Basford continued. “I wish him, Diane and their family the very best.”

McKeithen started at the Panama City Police Department in 1973 and worked as a patrolman in Gulf County before joining the Bay County Sheriff’s Office in 1976 for what would be a 19-year tenure and lead him to the rank of Captain of the Criminal Investigations Division.

In 1995 he was appointed Gulf County Sheriff, a position he held until he returned to Bay County as Sheriff in 2003. He retired in 2016.

State Attorney Larry Basford, left, and Chief Investigator Frank McKeithen in court Oct. 6 for a resentencing hearing on convicted murderer Roderick Michael Orme.

McKeithen and Basford have worked together for over 40 years, developing a mutual respect and friendship.

And that’s what brought McKeithen out of retirement in January, he said.

“When Larry took over, to be very honest, that’s what prompted it,” McKeithen said. “I thought he was going to be a great State Attorney and my premonition was absolutely correct: he is a great state attorney.”

“My exit was like the entrance, the only thing I had on my mind was working for him and trying to help where I could.”

McKeithen’s last day was Monday.

For additional information contact Mike Cazalas at mike.cazalas@sa14.fl.gov or (850) 381-7454.