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Sheriff won’t run, others line up

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Mazzacano, Bartlett and Leggett, all former deputies, seek job

GREENPORT–Come January 2014, there will be a new sheriff in Columbia County.

Sheriff David W. Harrison, Jr., will not seek re-election to the post he was first elected to in 2005.

At least three other men have now set their sights on the county’s top cop spot: Sheriff’s Office Captain David Bartlett, Chatham Police Department Deputy Chief Mark Leggett and retired State Police Senior Investigator Gary Mazzacano, all of whom have submitted letters of interest in securing the Republican nomination.

County Democrats are currently considering candidates for the office.

 

Sheriff Harrison, who began working for the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office in 1984 as a deputy jailer and worked his way up through the ranks to become the man in charge, told The Columbia Paper this week that at age 50, he is in his 30th year at the Sheriff’s Office. “It’s been a great career,” he said, noting, he and his wife, Kelly, raised their three sons, now 27, 26 and 21, and he succeeded in completing his law enforcement career in the top position.

But the job requires “24/7 thought” and life has shifted his focus. His wife of 32 years has been battling breast cancer for several months. “She’s going to be okay,” he said, noting she had surgery, went through chemo and recently finished radiation therapy. “The prognosis is good,” he said. Having gone to her appointments with her, he praised her courage and fortitude and observed, “The process has been very eye opening for me.”

He said his wife did not try to sway him one way or the other about re-election, they sat down and made the decision together. The sheriff said he will “still work somewhere” and his pension will help with expenses. But “it’s time to move on.”

Sheriff Harrison said he supports Captain Bartlett in his bid for the post. The captain, 51, of Kinderhook began his career as a deputy sheriff jailer 29 years ago and worked his way up through the ranks to currently manage the Law Enforcement Division. According to a press release from the sheriff, Captain Bartlett “has overseen the accreditation program and is chairman of the county Safe Schools Committee. He has been instrumental in all aspects of the Office and has the education, experience and dedication to hold this very important position. He is a volunteer firefighter, Little League and Special Olympics coach and will make a great sheriff.”

Captain Bartlett said Wednesday, he is honored to have the sheriff’s endorsement. “I love doing this job and am excited at the chance to run for sheriff. I think I have proven myself as an administrator.”

Deputy Chatham Police Chief Leggett, 55, of Ghent, is also interested in the sheriff post. He worked at the Columbia County Sheriff’s Department, as it was then known, from 1976 to 1999. Starting as a correction officer, he went on to work as a dispatcher, a deputy, a sergeant, an investigator, a master sergeant and ended his 23-year career with the department as a captain supervising 50 full-time and 30 part-time police officers, investigators, court personnel, dispatchers and civilian office staff. He has served as deputy chief of the Chatham Police for 11 years. He is also a licensed private investigator and has served the public for 35 years. The deputy chief told The Columbia Paper that in addition to the Republican Committee, he has also submitted letters of interest to the Independence and Conservative party chairs.

The other announced candidate for the nomination is retired State Police Senior Investigator Mazzacano, 61, of Greenport who, after mandatory retirement from the State Police at the end of 2011, told The Columbia Paper this week he is ready to get back into the thick of it. “It was nice to have a year off, I did some travelling and a lot of things around the house, but I’ve got to go back to work and the work I know best is law enforcement.” The position of sheriff will be a good fit for him, said Mr. Mazzacano, noting he got his start as a lawman at the Sheriff’s Department in 1971. After two years in the Army serving with the 236th Military Police Detachment in Washington, DC, he returned to the Sheriff’s Department in 1974, continuing to work as a deputy, correction officer and dispatcher until he became a state trooper in 1977. He ascended to the position of senior investigator by the time he retired. In all, Mr. Mazzacano has 40 years of law enforcement under his belt. He currently serves as chief of the Greenport Fire Department.

All three men are registered Republicans.

Columbia County Republican Committee Chairman Greg Fingar confirmed the receipt of the three letters of interest in the sheriff’s job and said he met with Sheriff Harrison and tried unsuccessfully to persuade him to run again. “He’s got a lot on his plate,” said Mr. Fingar.
At a full meeting of the Republican Committee sometime in April, the date has not yet been set, all potential candidates will address the committee about their qualifications and their platforms and the committee will decide who it wants as its nominee, Mr. Fingar explained.

The committee will then circulate petitions to collect signatures, at least 625 of them or 5% of the enrolled Republicans, and submit them to the Board of Elections so the candidate will get his name placed on Republican ballot line.

If someone other than who the committee has chosen still wants the nomination, that person can circulate his or her own petitions, get the required number of signatures and force a primary, in which Republican voters will pick their candidate.
Columbia County Democratic Committee Chair Cyndy Hall said Tuesday that her committee is currently in the middle of a search process to find a candidate and that the party expects to have one.

To contact Diane Valden email dvalden@columbiapaper.com.

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