GHENT–In the Tuesday, September 10 primary election, Republican voters will have the opportunity to select the candidate they wish to represent their party in the race for Columbia County Sheriff. Current Sheriff David Harrison Jr. has decided not to seek re-election. Sheriff’s Office Captain David Bartlett and former State Police Senior Investigator Gary Mazzacano are competing for the Republican line, and each candidate cites his record of experience as his strongest asset for the job.
The winner of the primary will have the GOP line on the ballot in the November 5 general election and will face Mike Winnie, the Democratic Party candidate for sheriff.
What follows below are brief profiles of each of the Republican candidates. The polls are open for the primary from noon to 9 p.m. Tuesday. Only registered Republicans may vote in the party’s primary for Sheriff.
Captain David Bartlett, 52, has worked with the Sheriff’s Office for 29 years, having held almost every rank in the agency. He said he is trained in all five divisions of the office: Law Enforcement, Corrections, Civil Enforcement, Emergency Management, and Court Security. Since 2006, he’s been a captain overseeing the Law Enforcement Division, which includes about 100 personnel. He says he knows firsthand what it takes to lead the agency, and believes this experience makes him the best candidate for the job.
“I don’t have to learn this job. My competitor has to come in and learn this job,” he told the Columbia Paper earlier this week. “This is more than a police agency. It’s more than just being a cop.”
If elected, Captain Bartlett says his main focus will be on increasing community policing. He’d like to see deputies out getting to know the people in their areas, and more patrols to help farmers who are having problems with their crops being taken. He says he would work to keep the budget down, as he has with the $4.5-million budget he currently manages for his division.
He is the chairman of the county Safe School Committee, and a member of the Zone 14 Counter Terrorism Committee. He’s earned several qualifications and certifications while working for the Sheriff’s Office, and says he played a large role in opening the agency’s first substation in Hillsdale.
Sheriff Harrison and the three former sheriffs under whom Captain Bartlett has served have jointly issued an endorsement supporting his bid for the position. Captain Bartlett said he’s honored to receive their backing, adding, “They taught me everything I know.”
His long list of endorsements also includes Marc Molinaro, the Dutchess County executive and former state assemblyman, and Greene County Sheriff Gregory Seeley. Captain Bartlett also has the backing of Columbia County’s Conservative and Independence parties, which guarantees him two lines on the November ballot.
He says his training and experience with the Sheriff’s Office equip him for the job more than any of the other candidates.
“It would be like handing over the keys,” he said. “This is my career. I love this job.”
Gary Mazzacano, 62, says it’s his 40 years experience in law enforcement that makes him the most qualified candidate. Mr. Mazzacano, a former State Police senior investigator, joined the Sheriff’s Office–then the Sheriff’s Department–early in his career. The Columbia County native also worked with the Greenport Police Department and with the State Police for 34 years in various counties.
“I have the most experience working with other aspects of law enforcement,” he said earlier this week.
He said his main focus as sheriff would be to get different law enforcement agencies to work more closely together. His experience with different police agencies, he said, has helped him develop the relationships and contacts over the years to be in position to carry out that focus if elected. He used the Boston Marathon bombings as an example, referring to how quickly it was solved because of law enforcement agencies working together.
“I’d like to see more of that in Columbia County,” he said.
Mr. Mazzacano says the Sheriff’s Office needs a new “set of eyes.”
“I think it’s time for a fresh outlook,” he said. “The office needs a new perspective.”
He said one of his major focuses will be on improving school safety, not just in terms of gun violence, but in eliminating drugs in school. He said drugs are a growing problem in schools, and he plans to work with school superintendents.
“I haven’t seen too much being done about that,” he said. “We need to do more working with the schools to make it a safer place for the kids and to keep the drugs out.”
He said he also wants to make the Sheriff’s Office more transparent, get the deputies more involved, and help them be more efficient.
“What I’m hearing from the people is they want to see economically affordable but improved service to the residents at a reduced cost without reducing valuable services,” he said.
He also wants to continue to work with those who are repealing the New York State SAFE Act. the gun control law signed into law by Governor Cuomo early this year.
In addition to his experience with the various police agencies, Mr. Mazzacano also served as a Military Police officer, is an experienced hostage negotiator, has been the Greenport Fire Chief for 16 years, and is the current chairman of the Columbia County Board of Supervisors’ Fire Advisory Board. He has received support from Warren County Sheriff Bud York and Dutchess County Sheriff Butch Anderson.
“My whole career has been about helping people,” he said.