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Now that one individual has jumped into the race for sheriff of Jefferson County, let’s start the discussion about how to restore people’s confidence in the department as a professional and competent police agency.

Watertown native John R. Bocciolatt declared Tuesday that he will run as a Republican for sheriff. He made his announcement during a press conference held at the Savory Downtown in the Best Western.

Mr. Bocciolatt grew up in Watertown and still has many relatives who live in the north country; he now lives in Clayton. He worked for 28 years as a detective with the Portland Police Bureau in Oregon. After retiring from the department in 2005, he started his own private investigation and security consulting business.

Sheriff John P. Burns said he does not intend to run for re-election next year. Sadly, numerous scandals have occurred under Sheriff Burns’s watch. This has left some residents wondering who can provide the kind of leadership needed to demonstrate integrity and efficiency.

There obviously are ongoing problems with the Sheriff’s Department that need to be resolved. Sheriff Burns has not shown himself either willing or able to address the agency’s poor reputation in the eyes of residents, and this is most unfortunate. He will remain sheriff for the next year, and the people of Jefferson County should not have to wait that long to see action taken to place the department once again on the right track.

But this is the situation we’re left with, so we must make the best out of what we have. And what we have is one candidate willing to jump into the race and word that more may be on the way soon.

Ronald H. Cole, chairman of the Jefferson County Democratic Committee, said at least four other people have expressed an interest in running for sheriff. The sooner they announce their respective candidacies and outline how they plan to run the department, the better for all of us who want to compare their credentials and find out how they intend to lead.

While it’s important for all potential candidates to understand the problems now affecting the Sheriff’s Department, this race should not degenerate into one of pointing fingers and dwelling on past mistakes. The people of Jefferson County need to know how those seeking this position plan to move the agency into the future. The candidates must detail how they will make the best use of the county’s resources to provide the best possible protection.

It is good that Mr. Bocciolatt has entered the race and that others are seriously considering a run. Let’s all look forward to a campaign filled with innovative ideas about how the Sheriff’s Department should be managed.

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