Two lawmen pursue sheriff’s badge

GHENT—The next Columbia County sheriff will be a veteran lawman whose foremost concern is protecting the people who live here.

Two men are campaigning hard to serve as sheriff: David Bartlett, a Republican, endorsed by the GOP, along with the Conservative and Independence parties; and Mike Winnie, a Democrat, running with the support of his party and the Working Families party. Current County Sheriff David Harrison, Jr., a part of the Sheriff’s Office for 30 years, announced in January that he had decided not to seek re-election to the post he has held since 2005.

Mr. Bartlett handily overcame a challenge for the Republican ballot slot from former State Police Senior Investigator Gary Mazzacano during a countywide September 10 primary.

What follows are alphabetical order profiles of the men whose names will be on the November 5 ballot for sheriff.

David Bartlett
In 1984 David Bartlett started working for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office as a part-time deputy sheriff/jailer. Since then, now Captain Bartlett worked his way up and has held every rank with the exception of lieutenant and of course, sheriff, which he now has his sights set on. He currently oversees the Communications, Patrol and Criminal Investigation divisions at the Sheriff’s Office.

Born in Auburn, Cayuga County, he graduated from Auburn High School and earned an associate’s degree in liberal arts from SUNY Cobleskill.

He is captain of the Palmer Engine and Hose Company, Kinderhook; a baseball coach with the Northern Columbia Little League; a soccer coach in the Town of Kinderhook program; a CYO basketball coach and a certified Special Olympics swim coach through Sports and Therapeutic Recreation Instruction/Developmental Education (STRIDE.)

He is an outdoorsman, who, with his family, hunts, camps, hikes and participates in geocaching.

He serves on the Zone 14 Counterterrorism Committee, the U.S. Coast Guard Field and Intelligence Support Team (also terrorism-related), is chair of the Columbia County Safe School Committee and is the Sheriff’s Office Law Enforcement Division Accreditation Program manager.

Mr. Bartlett said in a phone interview this week, “I am extremely proud to have been the point person for the Sheriff’s Office Hillsdale Substation.”

After learning that the Copake Police Department was being dissolved and hearing from then Copake Councilman Dan Tompkins, who is also a deputy, that the eastern part of the county was the only zone without a resident police force of any kind and that the Hillsdale Town Hall was moving to a new location, “I talked with the sheriff, the idea was born and we ran with it.”

He has numerous service awards related to life saving, counterterrorism and disarming someone with a knife.

Mr. Bartlett’s aims, if elected, include keeping crime down.

He said that statistically violent crime is down. He plans to foster relationships and work with other agencies to keep it that way.

Staying below budget and “working with what we’ve got” is also a priority for Mr. Bartlett, who has written successful department grants and sees grant-seeking as a viable means of financing special operations and equipment needed to service this county. “September 11 changed our lives forever. We have to be prepared to protect our citizens. It’s not if the next attack comes, but when,” he said.

Mr. Bartlett also wants to get police officers back in schools. School Resource Officers, as they are called, were cut due to state budget cuts, but “kids are our most important resource” he said, noting officers serve as role models and also deter crime.

Mr. Bartlett, 52, lives in Kinderhook with his wife Lori. They have five children, “yours, mine and ours,” the candidate said.

Mike Winnie
Mr. Winnie has lived in Columbia County for 31 years; he was previously a resident of Albany and graduated from Philip Schuyler High School. He has completed 18 credit hours of study at Hudson Valley Community College in Troy, where he has been a campus peace officer with the college’s Public Safety Department since September 2009.

He served in the U.S. Army from August 1969 to March 1972 and was honorably discharged with the rank of sergeant E-5.

His 40 years of law enforcement experience also include serving as: part-time police chief of the Stockport Police Department for four years; a police officer with the Chatham Police Department for 13 years; and a deputy sheriff and sergeant/supervisor with the Albany County Sheriff’s Department for 26 ½ years. He retired from the department in 2000.

He has completed a long list of police training and schools including: basic and advanced accident investigation, motor vehicle accident reconstruction, NYS basic course for police officers, NYS course in police supervision, public safety critical incident management, incident command system, emergency vehicle operators course, impaired driver recognition, breath analysis operator, police Doppler radar certified, interview and interrogation techniques, criminal investigation, commercial vehicle enforcement, basic and advanced accident investigation, accident reconstruction, railroad grade crossing investigation, statewide police information network trained, civil law practice and procedure enforcement, sexual harassment training, counseling and discipline training, supervisory and employee ethics, hazardous materials response awareness, NYS sex crime investigation, work zone safety, legal issues for NYS law enforcement officers, campus safety and awareness for chemical suicide incidents.

Mr. Winnie is a member and past board member of the Tri County Council Vietnam Era Vets; a member of the Fraternal Order of Police, American Legion Post #47 in Valatie, Vietnam Veterans of America and the Tri Village Rod and Gun Club.

He is a recipient of the Albany County Volunteer of the Year Award for 2000, for his work at Christmastime for underprivileged children in Albany County and has numerous letters of commendation and appreciation.

Mr. Winnie told The Columbia Paper this week by phone that he is running because Columbia County residents deserve a choice for sheriff, that it’s time for a change and he wants to give back and make a difference.

Mr. Winnie previously ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2001 against Walter Shook. He said he was not discouraged by the loss and is running again because “nothing has changed in 12 years.”

He said more accountability is needed in the handling of the Sheriff’s Office budget “so that not one cent of taxpayer money is spent on unneeded materials, personnel [or] cars.” Mr. Winnie said he will make sure that the safety needs of all county citizens are met while keeping an eye on the budget.

Mr. Winnie believes bridges need to be built with the State Police and local police departments to open communication and promote excellent working relationships. “We need to share available resources to eliminate unnecessary spending and overtime.” He believes monthly meetings should be arranged with police and social agencies to foster ideas and cooperation.

He wants to establish a recruiting program to make young people aware of job prospects in the Sheriff’s Office. “We need to encourage a diverse pool of individuals, including women and minorities to take the civil service exams and become part of the department. Faces of the department should look more like the total community we serve,” he said.

If elected, Mr. Winnie said, “Never again will anyone be asked what their political affiliation is, nor be told to change political parties to get a job with the Sheriff’s Department.”

Mr. Winnie, 61, and his wife, Margaret live in Stuyvesant. They are the parents of two daughters, Tonya (deceased) and Michelle; a son, Walter; a foster son, Rodney Curl; and have three grandsons.

In his travels around the county during his campaign, Mr. Winnie said he was made aware of internal Sheriff’s Office issues, which he has attempted to investigate: the biggest issue, he said is what he described as the theft of 7,000 rounds of ammunition from a locked area in the public safety building. The other is the operation of patrol vehicles out of the county by Sheriff’s Office investigators. He said patrol vehicles have been spotted out of the county with children’s car seats in them.

He has received a response to his requests for answers from the Sheriff’s Office under the Freedom of Information Law indicating that an investigation into the missing ammunition is still ongoing. But his request to examine Standard Operating Procedure for the out of county use of patrol cars was denied, he said.

Asked about these matters, Mr. Bartlett said that the missing ammunition involved an accountability issue. The problem occurred at a time when patrols were initially being equipped with assault rifles. He said the ammunition was not stolen, but rather was not properly “logged out.”  He said since then the situation has been addressed, that those responsible were disciplined and the record-keeping policy tightened.

As for investigators operating Sheriff’s Office patrol vehicles, Mr. Bartlett said when investigators are on-call they are allowed to take patrol vehicles on family outings. If they receive an emergency call, they must respond in the patrol vehicle, leaving their family to find another ride home. He said investigators generally stay within the county because they know they must be able to respond to a crime or accident scene “within 15 or 20 minutes, not an hour.” Most investigators have learned that if they are driving a patrol car on a family outing or other occasion, someone else should drive another car in case the investigator has to leave.

To contact Diane Valden email .

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