WATERTOWN In politics and planning, its never too early to start.
Undersheriff Paul W. Trudeau, who is running as a Democrat for the office of Jefferson County sheriff, addressed a small crowd of supporters Monday at Watertown Town Hall. He spoke of his experience, qualifications and ambitions.
The hall was occupied mostly by members of his campaign committee. Most of the political interest in the area surrounds the race for the 21st Congressional District, which will feature a hotly contested primary between Republican candidates Matthew A. Doheny and Elise M. Stefanik.
But as the final term of Jefferson County Sheriff John P. Burns, who has held office since 2003, draws to a close, the race for sheriff ultimately may become one of equal or greater local consequence.
Mr. Trudeau will face fellow Democrat and former state police senior investigator Colleen M. ONeill in a September primary. Watertown native John R. Bocciolatt, a retired detective sergeant with the Portland, Ore., police bureau, is running as a Republican in the race.
Ms. ONeill said that it has been a part of her campaign plan to hold town hall style events and that she solicits input from voters regularly.
I talk to people from the community every single day. Its an ongoing process, Ms. ONeill said.
Fresh off a state Legislature-sponsored panel discussion at the Dulles State Office Building Friday, Mr. Trudeau spoke extensively about the impact of heroin and opioid-based drugs in the area.
We all know were in the middle of a heroin epidemic, Mr. Trudeau said. Its in the county, too. Its not just the city.
According to Mr. Trudeau, the countys heroin problem must be tackled on three levels: education for the public, tougher penalties for drug dealers and more law enforcement officers on the streets.
Mr. Trudeau acknowledged that this agenda may be difficult to accomplish given the budget constraints the county has faced in recent years. Deputies are in short supply, and the Sheriffs Department has had to remove a DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) officer from the rotation in area schools and a deputy from the Metro-Jefferson Drug Task Force to help with other duties.
A former state corrections officer, Mr. Trudeau said his experience gives him an advantage over his competitors. One of the sheriffs main duties is to oversee the county jail.
Mr. Trudeau said the Corrections Division and the Civil Division of the Sheriffs Department are often overlooked. If elected sheriff, he said he would educate the public about the departments various functions.
Mr. Trudeau will hold two more events this week, at 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Lake Ontario Playhouse, 103 Main St., Sackets Harbor, and at 6 p.m. Thursday at Savory Downtown, 300 Washington St.
Mr. Bocciolatt said he is putting together a similar series of events.