Bower decides against re-election for sheriff

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 15 February 2019 at 1:49 pm

Chris Bourke, current undersheriff, will seek position

Photo by Tom Rivers: Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower speaks on July 28, 2016, when James DeFilipps was honored as the 2015 “Deputy of the Year” by the New York State Sheriff’s Association.

ALBION – Orleans County Sheriff Randy Bower has announced today he won’t be seeking re-election to a second four-year term as sheriff.

Chris Bourke, the current undersheriff, will be running for sheriff. Bourke has a 35-year career with the Orleans County Sheriff’s Office.

“To fully complete my commitment to this office and run a campaign would compromise one of them or both,” Bower said in a statement.

He said he has met his campaign promises, and praised the staff and deputies at the Sheriff’s Office for making many improvements the past three years.

“A special thanks to all the residents of Orleans County who supported is throughout my term,” Bower said. “I will continue to serve the next 10 months with the passion and commitment as I have since taking office.”

Bower was being challenged for sheriff by Brett Sobieraski, a sergeant with the Rochester Police Department, who lives in Kent. Both sought the Republican Party endorsement. On Saturday, the GOP Committee didn’t make an endorsement because neither candidate met the new threshold for gaining an endorsement of at least 66.7 percent of the votes.

Bower won a hard-fought race in 2015 for sheriff, defeating Tom Drennan, who had the GOP endorsement. Drennan was the chief deputy for the Sheriff’s Office, and said Sobieraski would have been his undersheriff.

Bower ran a high-energy campaign, and had the backing of most of the deputies and the employees at the jail. He has remained highly visible in the community since he was elected.

Bower will be 55 soon after the election and is eligible to retire. He said he will stay active in his retirement, and wants to volunteer with Orleans Recovery Hope, an organization that assists people battling addictions and offers support for their family members.

Bower previously worked nearly 30 years as a county dispatcher in the Public Safety Building.

He highlighted some of the successes in the past three years:

• An increased law enforcement presence in the rural areas of the county, so much that Lyndonville and Kendall school districts each are paying the county $100,000 to have a deputy assigned to the districts as a school resource officer.

• State police patrol cars are now in the county dispatch center.

• The county has expanded animal control services and is having those officers trained as peace officers.

• The Civil Division promptly processes orders of conviction.

• There are expanded services in the county jail to fight the opioid epidemic, including a treatment program. The federal government is funding that program with GCASA providing the treatment.

• Bower said he has strengthened many partnerships locally with churches, Mental Health providers, and the state and federal government to assist people with addictions.

Bower last June received a national award for his work to implement several new initiatives in the county, including expanded substance abuse and mental health services for inmates in the Orleans County Jail. He was honored at the National Sheriffs’ Association Conference in New Orleans with a MAGNUS Leadership Award.

Bourke has been long-time leader at Sheriff’s Office

Chris Bourke

Chris Bourke has been the undersheriff for the past three-plus years. Bourke said Bower has been a strong leader for the Sheriff’s Office.

“I want to continue all of the initiatives the sheriff and his team have started and expand upon those,” Bourke said. “If you put out a list of accomplishments, it’s a long list.”

Bourke said the Sheriff’s Office has strengthened relationships with other local law enforcement departments, including state and federal agencies.

“Those relationships with our partners ultimately benefit all of the citizens of Orleans County,” Bourke said.

He started his career as a correction officer, and then was a deputy sheriff before working 18 years as a lieutenant. He was supervisor of the Marine Patrol, and also was a K9 officer for 20 years, working with four dogs.

Bourke said he will be seeking signatures on the Republican line to be the candidate. A candidate needs 543 signatures from registered Republicans in the county to be on the ballot. If there is more than one candidate, there will be a primary on June 25.

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