After win, Bower says he’s ready ‘to go to work’
HOLLEY – Randy Bower celebrated a stunning victory for Orleans County sheriff on Tuesday night with many of his co-workers who are dispatchers, deputies, and corrections officers at the Orleans County Sheriff’s Department.
Bower, 50, has been a public safety dispatcher for 29 years. On Jan. 1, he will be the new Orleans County sheriff, succeeding Scott Hess who is retiring.
Bower topped Tom Drennan, 3,951 votes to 3,507, with Don Organisciak getting 847.
Drennan has been chief deputy for nine years and a 23-year member of the Sheriff’s Department. He ran a campaign on “Experience Matters.” He had support from past sheriffs and key leaders in the law enforcement community and Republican Party.
Bower had the backing from most of the deputies and the unions in the department. They wore red shirts, “Bower for Sheriff,” and they were highly visible at community parades and events in support of Bower.
“I think the people are ready for a change,” Bower said after the results came in Tuesday night. “Now we have to go to work for the people of Orleans County.”
Bower gained more momentum after forcing a Republican Primary and winning by 21 votes over Drennan on Sept. 10. Bower also had the Conservative Party line.
Drennan stayed in the race on the Independence and Reform lines, while the Democrats backed Organisciak.
Bower said he will be the “People’s Sheriff.” He said he reached across party lines, including to Democrats, and attended numerous community events the past 10 months. He intends to keep up that pace in the community.
He recently met with church leaders at predominantly black congregations, including the Royal Church of God in Christ in Carlton, Glad Tidings Baptist Church in Medina, and The Lord’s House in Waterport.
Bower was joined by Lt. Chris Bourke, Bower’s choice for undersheriff, at many of the community events and church visits.
“We felt these are people who feel ignored and we want to reach out to all people,” Bourke said at the Bower election headquarters at Hickory Ridge Golf Course. “All people in the county should be involved in the process.”
Bower and Bourke have worked together for nearly 30 years. When Bower decided to run for sheriff, courting town and county Republican Committee members in the spring, he reached out to Bourke for undersheriff.
They ran as a team. Bourke said he was confident Bower could be an effective sheriff back in the spring when they began the campaign. Bower’s work ethic and optimism over a grueling campaign has Bourke even more confident the new sheriff will be a a strong leader.
Bower named team leaders for the campaign, and challenged them to get 21 people out to vote on Tuesday. The goal was originally 20, but Bower raised it to 21. That was his margin of victory in the Republican Primary.
Bower led frequent campaign rallies, but they were also work meetings, where he gave tasks to his campaign volunteers and discussed his strategy for sharing the campaign message and getting out the vote.
Dennis Piedimonte, an election commissioner, has known Bower since he was a kid. Piedimonte was impressed with Bower’s skills during the campaign.
“He is organized,” Piedimonte said. “He knows how to motivate people.”
Bower has been paralyzed from the waist down since he was in a car accident at age 18. He hasn’t let the accident keep him from an active life.
He said he lives a blessed life with his wife Robin and their two grown children, Jessica and Jacob.
Bower said during the campaign he loved his job as a dispatcher. But he felt compelled to lead the department. His plan includes more community policing, particularly for the rural schools in Kendall and Lyndonville.
Bower also said he will push for drug treatment programs in the county jail. That message connected with many residents, Bower said, because so many families have felt the pain of a loved one battling drug addictions.
“We got to help them,” Bower said Tuesday night. “They are our people.”
Bower is a high-energy person, who led a turnaround as Holley’s girls basketball coach a few years when his daughter played. The team went from winless to the playoffs.
Bower said he has support from the employees for his vision for the department. Many of the deputies, corrections officers and dispatchers actively campaigned for him.
“We’ll set a pace,” Bower said. “They know my philosophy and they’ll work for me.”
Bower had a busy Tuesday, driving to all 10 towns. When he got out of his vehicle, he said many passing motorists waved and gave him honks of support. He was warmly greeted with handshakes while making stops throughout the county.
Jim Halstead, a retired deputy, worked with Bower for 20 years. Halstead said the department will rally behind Bower.
“He’s going to be an outstanding leader,” Halstead said. “He’s not going to be distracted by the pride thing.”
Halstead also worked with Bourke, who was Halstead’s shift supervisor. Bourke is a respected manager in the department, Halstead said.
“He makes you feel like you’re working with him,” Halstead said.