JEFFERSON COUNTY, N.Y. (WWTI) — The community gathered at Jefferson Community College on Tuesday to hear from the candidates in the running to become the next Jefferson County Sheriff.

County Sheriff Colleen O’Neill announced that she would not seek reelection in October of 2021, leaving the position open to Retired Deputy Peter Barnett, Detective Perry Golden, and current Deputy Gerald Delosh. Those attending the debate were able to ask the candidates their questions and hear their opinions on concepts associated with the positions.

The main focuses of the discussion included recruitment efforts, the ongoing opioid crisis, second amendment rights, relationship with correctional officers, and the local homeless population. Although all three Republican candidates agreed on most of the topics, their strategies differed when asked how they would approach each issue, and what their main focus would be.

Specifically, each candidate stressed their passion for the area and dedication to keeping the community safe. Former Deputy Sheriff Peter Barnett also emphasized his experience with fiscal budgets as well as his connection to the community.

“You will have 100% commitment if I am elected Sheriff,” Barnett said. “What are your expectations? What are your ideas for the local Sheriff’s Department? There might be something great out there. Let’s work together.”

Deputy and Detective Perry Golden also highlighted his dedication to the community while addressing the room.

“First off, this is way outside of my comfort zone. I’m doing this because I believe in it so strongly. I’d put my dedication and commitment against anybody,” Golden said. “I’ve worked at the Sheriff’s Office for over 20 years, ask anyone I’ve worked with, I am passionate about what I do. I bring business experience, leadership experience, 26 years of law enforcement experience, let me put that to work for you.”

Like the other candidates, current Deputy Delosh explained his commitment to the community, and how it will continue if he is elected into the position.

“This is my 19th year, I’ve been doing the job for 28. If I’m elected I can guarantee you I’m not going to be a one-term Sheriff. I’m going to be at least a two-term,” Delosh said. “I’m passionate about everybody who works there. You call me and I will come to you.”

Each candidate shared what would be at the forefront of their mind if they were elected. Barnett addressed the drug problem in the community, after expressing an interest in implementing drug abuse resistance education in local schools during the debate. Other issues he stated would be the main focus for him were not allowing the homeless population to rise, speeding up the pistol permit process, and listening to the staff.

“The homeless can equal more crime and more people headed to jail. We want to get these people working, we don’t want them in the street,” Barnett said. “Another thing is pistol permits, speed up the process, get a little more consistency with the time frame. Also, the staff, the staff is the most important down there. As Sheriff, I want to look out, make sure people are happy.”

Before making changes to drug enforcement, addiction training, and education initiatives, Golden said he would want to first ensure that his taking over the role goes as smoothly as possible.

“If I’m elected initially, it’s just to make sure there’s a smooth transition. The Sheriff’s Department is well run on both sides of the fence, both in corrections and road control and our civil division as well,” Golden said. “I want to ensure there’s a good smooth transition, that we don’t backslide, and then from then take a look at the operations and see where we can tweak a few things. Listen to the guys, talk to the lieutenants, talk to the public. See where we can make things a little bit better. We have limited resources and I want to make the most of them that I can.”

Delosh also shared what would first be on his mind if he was elected touching on local drug issues, recruiting the proper candidates, and knowledge of the area.

“Retention of jail, not the inmates, but our correction officers. Getting in there, figuring out what the issues are. The other issue is going to be the opioid epidemic. With speaking with some of the users, it’s not so much the heroin or the molly or whatever, it’s the fentanyl that’s 100 times more addictive than the heroin,” Delosh said. “I know the community and the Bay more than a road trooper or a deputy in that area.”

The campaign for the position will continue throughout the next couple of months with New York state primaries scheduled to take place on June 28. More information about the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office can be found on their website.