Randy Bower stays in race to be next sheriff

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 13 May 2015 at 12:00 am

Chris Bourke, long-time lieutenant at Sheriff’s Department, would be Bower’s undersheriff

Photo by Tom Rivers – Randy Bower, right, and Chris Bourke want to lead the Sheriff’s Department. Bower is running for Orleans County sheriff.

HOLLEY – Randy Bower is staying in the race to be Orleans County’s next sheriff. Bower has the Conservative Party endorsement and will appear on the November ballot.

Last Thursday, the Orleans County Republican Party Committee endorsed Tom Drennan, the current chief deputy, to be sheriff. Drennan secured just over 60 percent of the GOP Committee’s support, getting 6,151 votes to 3,951 for Bower, a long-time dispatcher for the county. The committee has 75 voting members and uses a weighted voting system.

Bower said on Tuesday he hasn’t decided if he will force a Republican Primary. But he said he isn’t withdrawing from the race.

He will be campaigning with Chris Bourke, a lieutenant in the Sheriff’s Department. Bourke started his 31-year career as a corrections officer in the county jail and has worked as a deputy on road patrol. He has been a lieutenant the past 18 years and is the department’s K-9 handler.

Burke and the Deputy Sheriff’s Association support Bower for sheriff.

“Randy is an organizer,” Bourke said. “I have no doubt he can do the job.”

Bower, 50, has worked with Bourke for nearly three decades. Bower has been a dispatcher, relaying information to Bourke and other officers in the field. Bower has been active in the community in numerous other ways, running a custom apparel company with John Cole, coaching youth soccer, basketball and baseball.

He was also the Holley girls varsity basketball coach for four years. That team lost every game its first two years with Bower, but it became a playoff team his third season. Bower was Genesee-Region coach of the year that year in 2010.

He also has been chairman of a bocce tournament the past 15 years in Hulberton, part of the St. Rocco’s Festival the Sunday before Labor Day. That tournament draws teams from throughout Western New York and Ontario, Canada.

Bower is in a wheelchair. He has been paralyzed from the waist down since a car accident when he was 18.

“I’m challenge-driven,” he said. “I love a challenge. I’m self-motivated and I have the ability to motivate others.”

Bower said very supportive friends and family helped him recover quickly from his accident 32 years ago. He said he lives a blessed life with his wife Robin and their children: Jessica, 23; and Jacob, 20.

The accident hasn’t prevented him from an active and athletic life. He said he loves his job as dispatcher. (He also was a member of the Sheriff’s Department’s Off-Road Patrol from 1992-1998, riding all-terrain vehicles to help locate missing persons, stolen property and respond to other situations.)

Bower wants to be sheriff because he said he has the leadership skills, vision and communication skills to run the department and serve the public.

“I’m seeking the endorsement of the people of Orleans County,” Bower said at his home on Route 31 in Holley. “I know how to treat people.”

Randy Bower

Bower was 18 when he worked for the Group W Cable company in Brockport, a company that was precursor to Time Warner. He installed cables on the telephone poles.

After his car accident in October 1983, Bower was hospitalized for three months. He returned to work at Group W, this time as a dispatcher.

He was hired as an Orleans County dispatcher in 1986 by former sheriff David Green.

Bower has worked 29 years as a county dispatcher, teaming with law enforcement and other emergency responders, including firefighters and ambulance staff. The dispatcher position has evolved over the years with more technology and training, working with members of the public in crisis situations.

It’s a job that Bower says requires “strict composure” and the ability extract vital information while remaining diplomatic and compassionate with the callers.

Before a big upgrade in 1998, when dispatch moved from the jail to the Public Safety Building, Bower and the dispatchers also ran the jail control room, a key part of the facility’s security.

Bower’s campaign for sheriff has picked up support from many Republican Committee members, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association and the Conservative Party leaders. He presented to them a plan for the five divisions of the Sheriff’s Department, a plan that he said would make for a more efficient department, better service to the community and more revenue for the county.

The jail is the largest division of the Sheriff’s Department with 33 corrections officers, two cooks, a superintendent and eight other part-time COs.

The jail has a capacity for about 80 inmates. Bower said many of the inmates are “chemically dependent,” suffering from heroin, opiate and other addictions. He would like to see more services in the jail for those inmates to help them break the cycle of addiction.

“There is a revolving door right now,” he said.

He said he would pursue state funding to finance the drug addiction programs.

“There would be 0 tax increase to the county,” he said.

He would also push to have the county’s K-9 team regularly visit the jail to ensure no drugs are being brought in.

The county currently has two welfare fraud investigators through the Department of Social Services. Bower would like to add a fraud investigator to the Sheriff’s Department, a position that could ultimately save taxpayers’ money.

Bower and Bouke want to see more community policing with more police visibility, especially in the Lyndonville and Kendall communities.

The Sheriff’s Department Civil Division handles papers for evictions, orders of protection, summons and executions, and income and property executions. Those duties are currently handled by deputies while on patrol. But emergency calls often prevent deputies from delivering the paperwork in a timely manner.

Bower would like to have an officer assigned to that function to ensure the papers are delivered without delays. It would also free up deputies to focus on their other work. The civil work can generate revenue. Some attorneys have hired private contractors to do the work because the Sheriff’s Department often didn’t deliver the papers on time, Bower said.

The dispatchers also work with Kathy Smith, the county’s animal control officer. Bower said she handles about 2,000 calls a year, and also cleans the animal shelter and feeds the animals. It’s a big job. Bower would like to see a deputy on staff who would assist with the animal control calls and also be deployed for other police calls.

With dispatch, the county about six months ago started handling calls for the State Police. However, Bower said the state police cars aren’t tracked by the dispatch center, meaning dispatchers don’t know where the closest car is for a call. He would push to have the state troopers be full participants in the county dispatch system, and he also said the state should pay the county some money for the dispatching work.

Bower also wants dispatchers to have the capability of getting video links to the five school districts in case there was an incident in the schools needing a police or emergency response. If the schools allowed dispatch the video links, Bower said school officials would be notified if dispatch was in the school system’s video system.

“We want the public school video links,” Bower said. “We could see if there was an active shooter or other problems.”

Bourke said he supports Bower’s goals. He also has worked closely with Bower for 29 years, and witnessed his impact on others on a daily basis.

“It’s a leadership thing and Randy is the person,” Bourke said.