Opinion: Retired sheriff supports O'Brien for St. Lawrence County Sheriff
To the Editor:
I have been watching with interest the St. Lawrence County Sheriff race. This has included speaking to both candidates, listening in on interviews, watching the presentations, and following the thoughts of others on both sides and relying on my own historical insights.It’s easy to understand my interest. I was a member of the Sheriff’s Office from 1984 until retirement in 2019. I was proud to serve and work for both Sheriff Keith Knowlton and Sheriff Gary Jarvis. The last 20 years of my career were 8 years as Undersheriff for Jarvis and then as elected Sheriff for three 4-year terms. Those 12 years were the most demanding and rewarding of my career. It is an honor and a privilege to serve the county, and this cannot be taken for granted or forgotten.
When voters elected Sheriff Brooks Bigwarfe to be my successor, I was proud to stand with him and applauded when he appointed Investigator Sean O’Brien to be his Undersheriff. The Undersheriff is a crucial position, and that person has a tough job overseeing many aspects of the Sheriff’s Office including scheduling, budget, training and personnel issues along, with the day-to-day unpredictability which is law enforcement, corrections and civil work.
During my years in the Sheriff’s Office, I was involved in hiring employees in all divisions including both candidates for Sheriff. Both candidates have had very good careers serving the county and have stood out and made me proud to have them on our team. My compassion for both men, respect for their work ethic, their standing in their communities, strong family ties and well-rounded outside interests all come into play when evaluating them for this important office.
O’Brien is the candidate who has worked to grow his skills in important areas needed to be a successful Sheriff. As Patrol Officer, Investigator and Undersheriff he stepped forward and enhanced his skills in personnel, budget, grant writing, School Resource Officer organization, planning and deployment, and working with the NY State Sheriff’s Association and the NYS Commission of Corrections.
O’Brien has demonstrated strengths working with local, State and Federal law enforcement leaders. As a three times elected Union President by Deputy Sheriff’s Association members, he has shown a willingness to work for concerns of his fellow Officers. He took the added duty seriously, including fighting for those members' jobs when County Legislators were looking at cuts in tough financial times. O’Brien has served well in his administrative position and honored the trust put in him by Sheriff Bigwarfe.
O’Brien is a supporter of constitutional rights and has been a large reason why the Sheriff’s Office continues to process Pistol Permit applications fairly, completely and timely with some of the best efficiency in NYS. Technology enhancements, fighting through Bail Reform barriers other State-imposed unwanted mandates, and the Covid Epidemic made it a tough time for this Sheriff administration and its members. Sheriff Bigwarfe and O’Brien led their employees and served the County with honor and skill in tough times.
The Office of Sheriff is one the most important elected positions in any State. The Sheriff represents and swears to protect and serve all citizens and visitors in the County. No matter which candidate is successful, I encourage everyone to support their Sheriff. The burden of the Sheriff is large and important but also an honor. I appreciate that both candidates have stepped forward and put in the effort to be the candidate because it is not an easy process.
Please join me in supporting Undersheriff Sean P. O’Brien as your next Sheriff.
Sheriff Kevin M. Wells (Retired)