Tonight (August 16th) at 7 PM at First Churches in Northampton, there will be a debate regarding the position of Hampshire County Sheriff. Here's a quick primer about the upcoming election.

Photo by Emma Picsia/Paradise City Press

Who is the current sheriff?

Bob Garvey, and most people think he's the man. The Boston Globe published an article about him, claiming that he "just might be the best sheriff in the nation." At 79 years of age, Garvey is retiring after serving as the Hampshire County Sheriff since 1984. His background in the criminal justice system is extensive, and on top of it all, he is also a member of the University of Massachusetts Amherst faculty. The national average of recidivism is about 60%, whereas Hampshire County Jail boasts a 19%, thanks in part to the positive attitude that Garvey has towards the inmates; he's enthusiastic about interacting with them on a regular basis, and he has implemented a number of beneficial educational and life skill programs. Whoever wins the election will certainly have some big shoes to fill.

For those who are interested in learning more about the programs that have been implemented in the Hampshire County Jail, definitely check out their webpage.

Who's running?

There are four candidates vying for the sheriff position this year.

  • Patrick Callihane, assistant superintendent of the Hampshire County Jail and House of Correction
  • David Isakson, a South Hadley police officer
  • Kavern Lewis, a substitute teacher at the Amherst-Pelham regional schools
  • Melissa Perry, the director of behavioral health at Holyoke Medical Center

So...what does the Sheriff even do?

That's a very good question. Sheriffs are elected officials that are employed by the county. According to The Commonwealth of Massachusetts:

Section 11. Sheriffs and their deputies shall serve and execute, within their counties, all precepts lawfully issued to them and all other process required by law to be served by an officer. They may serve process in cases wherein a county, city, town, parish, religious society or fire or other district is a party or interested, although they are inhabitants or members thereof.

The sheriff's office is primarily responsible for maintaining the county jail and house of correction, to transport inmates, and to serve civil process. Duties may include investigating complaints, patrolling, resolving disputes, and executing warrants. The sheriff is also in charge of managing the activities of their deputies, and supporting their local law enforcement.

When is the election?

The primary election will be taking place on September 8th, 2016.

Don't forget to make sure you're registered to vote!