There's a New Sheriff in Town
Tom Bowler gives his victory speech at the Crowne Plaza.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tom Bowler became the county's first new sheriff in 32 years on Tuesday night.
Bowler, a Pittsfield Police detective and one-time assistant deputy superintendent at the House of Correction trounced North County's longtime state representative Daniel Bosley.
Bowler was greeted by more than 200 supporters at his victory party for sheriff at the Crowne Plaza. The crowd cheered enthusiastically as the returns came in. Not surprisingly, the Pittsfield native was supported by his city, which cast 5,070 ballots in his favor against Daniel Bosley, who polled 1,717.
New Sheriff-elect Tom Bowler embraces friend Jerry Burke, president and CEO of Hillcrest
Bosley was hoping for low turnout in Pittsfield to catch the detective by powering out of North County. But Bowler bit deep into Bosley's territory and Pittsfield made up for its sluggish start in the afternoon and evening hours, with about a 26 percent turnout.
North Adams stuck by Bosley, handing him 1,630 votes to Bowler's 1,035 but Adams went blue. Bowler picked up 1,064 to Bosley's 878.
Bowler continued to roll up towns throughout the county. South County turnout was extremely low, indicative of the few races on the ballot there.
Bowler thanked his supporters and mentioned the many friendships he'd made during the long campaign.
"There has been a change in our community. The drug dealers and violence eat at the heart of our community," he said. "But there's a new sheriff in town."
He praised his family and friends for their support and said he'd instill the office of sheriff with fairness and integrity. "I'm going to lead the only way I know how — by example."
More than 200 supporters gathered at Bowler's election party at the Crowne Plaza on Tuesday night.
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Letter: Bowler Most Qualified
To the Editor:
In an ideal world the position of sheriff of Berkshire County would require that applicants apply and the most qualified person would be selected for the position.
Fortunately, we do have a candidate in Tom Bowler, who clearly would be the most qualified applicant regardless of the process. His background in law enforcement and public service makes him the prime candidate to be our next sheriff.
Please mark Tuesday, Sept. 14, on your calendar because this is a primary race and the winner will be decided on this date. Please join me and cast your vote for Tom Bowler, sheriff.
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Bowler Proposes New Program For Children of Incarcerated Offenders
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Tom Bowler, candidate for Berkshire County sheriff, on Wednesday proposed expanding existing programs at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction in a comprehensive new effort to assist children whose parents are inmates at the jail. The new initiative is aimed at breaking the cycle of incarceration.
The program would feature collaboration with social service and mental health agencies, as well as a strong emphasis on existing youth and recreational agencies. The focus of the expanded programming would be on both the offender and their children.
"The older I get, the more I realize that the greatest gift given to me during my life was the foundation established in a loving home where both parents were actively involved in raising responsible children," Bowler said. "The children of some of the offenders at the jail will never know the value of this kind of family foundation."
According to national statistics, the children of incarcerated parents are at least 2.5 times more likely to be incarcerated themselves. The statistics also reveal that children of incarcerated parents tend to have more arrests and more problems with behavior, relationships, school and substance abuse.
"We need to stop this cycle of crime and to do that, we have to expand existing programming to address at-risk youth," Bowler said.
Statistics from 2009 at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction indicate that 1,059 individuals were booked at the facility and of that number, 833 of the incarcerated men and women each had an average of two children.
Bowler said there is already a full range of programs at the jail that address the significant issues that led to an individual's incarceration, including drug and alcohol addiction, or a lack of education or vocational training.
"But all too often, these offenders are also parents of little kids, and it is their children who are the most vulnerable victims of their crimes," he continued. "I want to expand on existing programming to include courses on how to be better parents. I want offenders to see a much bigger picture — that their obligation to the community must expand beyond improving themselves and also include providing a better life for their children."
The second emphasis of the expanded programming would be on the children of offenders by collaborating with social service, mental health and local recreational agencies to help fill the gaps in their lives while a parent is incarcerated.
"All kids need to be involved in good activities that help them gain confidence and find positive role models. When a parent is in jail, kids desperately need the involvement of other adults in their lives," Bowler said. "There are so many youth and recreational agencies in our community that can have a lasting impact on a child's life if we make a better effort to connect the kids of incarcerated offenders with the leaders of these agencies."
Bowler and his wife, Dayle, are the parents of four children.
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Debates Slated for Sheriff, 2nd Berkshire Candidates
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Berkshire Community College, in collaboration with the Pittsfield Gazette and Pittsfield Community Television, will host the following debates Monday evening, Aug. 30, in K-111 on BCC's main campus. Seating is first-come, first-served and voters are invited to attend one or all three debates
The first event will begin at 6 p.m. with a debate between Democratic candidates Paul W. Mark, Noreen P. Suriner and Thomas S. Szczepaniak, who are vying for the nomination for representative for the 2nd Berkshire District.
Michael F. Case and Rosanne M. Frieri, the Republican candidates for the 2nd Berkshire District, will begin their debate at 7.
Jenn Smith, reporter for The Berkshire Eagle, will moderate both debates.
Daniel E. Bosley and Thomas N. Bowler, who are running to replace retiring Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, will debate at 8 p.m. Clarence Fanto, freelance newspaper and radio journalist, will moderate this debate.
The debates will be telecast live on CityLink, the government channel of PCTV, and through streaming at www.pittsfieldtv.org. The event will also be rebroadcast on PCTV several times prior to the Sept. 14 primary elections.
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Sheriff Candidates Press Issues at Debate
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The two candidates hoping to rope the job of Berkshire County sheriff came out swinging on Monday night in their second debate. The 90-minute face-off at Conte Community School drew cheers and a few jeers from the crowd of more than 100 as the two Democrats tried to convince voters what a sheriff should be made of.
Thomas N. Bowler and Daniel E. Bosley last met in June in the first of four scheduled forums before the Sept. 14 primary. The candidates covered familiar ground on Monday night, hitting hard on the themes they've developed over the past few months. But it's been clear from the start that voters will be deciding what kind of sheriff they want — a public safety official or a law enforcement official.
"After 32 years, with the same sheriff, a lot of people aren't clear what the sheriff does," said Bosley, a 24-year state representative, describing that role as "the crux of the issue." "This is a human services job ... it's not a law enforcement job."
It was muggy in the Conte Community School gym and those on stage quickly doffed their jackets; it got more heated as the evening wore on.
Bowler, a Pittsfield detective with more than 20 years in law enforcement, disagreed strongly.
"If you were on a school committee, and you were going to hire a new superintendent for your schools, would you hire somebody who did not have a background in education?" he asked. "If you had a hospital administrator you were looking to hire, would hire somebody that does not have any health care experience — absolutely not."
The debate was sponsored by the Morningside and West Side neighborhood initiatives and moderated by Berkshire Eagle Executive Editor Tim Farkas, who noted the importance of electing the "first new Berkshire County sheriff since 1978." The candidates each were allowed opening and closing statements. Bosley took the first question by coin toss; the second candidate then was given a chance for response before it went back to the first candidate for rebuttal.
The two men did agree on a few things, including support for the revival of inmates growing produce for themselves and continuing to provide academic and trade skills education, working closely with local human service organizations and law enforcement agencies and alternative sentencing for juveniles, depending on their crimes.
In relation to the Morningside neighborhood, both said they would not consider selling off the property near Morningside School because of its current use for teaching trades and potential for further programs.
But they disagree heartily on three main issues — the role of sheriff, the need for a regional lockup and the expansion of programs beyond the House of Correction.
Bosley has called for a regional lockup similar that of Hampshire County. Located in the House of Correction, it would free up local police from transporting and guarding suspects and bring in much-needed revenue to the jail, he said. He estimated the cost for Pittsfield at about $35,000 a year that would translate into more police on the street.
"It makes fiscal sense for the town, it makes fiscal sense for the jail," said Bosley.
Bowler called the idea "completely irresponsible" and a waste of money at a time with the sheriff's budget is already pinched. "From my expereince, my 24 years, I can't remember at any point in time when all the 32 towns and cities had to lock up anyone at the same time."
But the sheriff has to come up with innovative ways to bring in revenue streams to expand programs, said Bosley, who called for the sheriff's department to take on a greater role integrating former inmates into the community after they were released.
"I think we need to be better coordinated to create a 'continuum of services' that would save money and help people to not re-offend," he said. Bosley frequently pointed to Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, which he helped found, as a model for working at the neighborhood level. "We need to follow them out into the community."
Bowler, who spent more than a year working in the House of Correction as a supervisor, said it was important for the department to work with community organizations, and be involved with the schools and Boys' and Girls' Clubs to forge bonds with youth. But there were already good programs in the House of Correction and no need to expand them; rather, the effort should be made through community outreach programs.
"There are adequate programs in education and trades," he said. "I'd talk to inmates and get their input into how we can make it better."
In response to question on the budget, the detective said he'd call for an audit and an assessment by the department's finance staff before making any decisions. The representative quickly responded, "I'm not going to rely on somebody else I'm going to look at the budget myself."
The debate got heated toward the end, with some boos from the back following Bosley's statement that Bowler "is very good at what he does and I think he should stay there." He later chastised the Bowler supporters for catcalls: "This is the way you've conducted this campaign." (The June forum also turned testy when a Bowler supporter tried to debate Bosley.)
Bowler retorted that "This is a true professional versus a politician." Bosley countered, "I prefer to think of myself as an elected official."
The candidates will meet again tonight, Tuesday, at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' Church Street Center. A final debate is planned for early September on WUPE/WNAW.
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