Bowler Lays Out Campaign Platform
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Candidate for sheriff Thomas N. Bowler has announced a campaign platform focused on increasing public safety, advancing accountability during serious economic times, and bringing a new kind of leadership to the office of sheriff that is based on education, experience and training.
"In today's world, the sheriff must reach out to law-enforcement professionals in Berkshire County and collaborate with them to increase public confidence and develop a true community-based approach to criminal justice," Bowler said. "As a Pittsfield Police detective, I experienced the devastating and costly impact that crime has on families and community. As sheriff, I'll work with passion and dedication to make Berkshire County a safer place to live. By working together, we can produce far more positive outcomes."
Bowler, who has received endorsements from the district attorney, the Berkshire County Police Chiefs, court officers and corrections officers, among others, said that the sheriff's office is in a unique position to help the law enforcement community.
"Step One includes developing a comprehensive means of gathering intelligence from the inmate population and sharing it with local and state police to help their efforts in fighting crime," he said. "Berkshire County has changed dramatically over the last several years, requiring a careful and professional approach to law enforcement that joins every level of criminal justice into a highly-efficient and effective team. I believe the sheriff's office can play a valuable role in a collaborative new approach to reducing crime, and I pledge to help in every way possible."
A police detective and 24-year member of the Pittsfield Police Department, Bowler also served as a deputy superintendent in charge of security at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction. He has an undergraduate and master's degree in criminal justice.
"I've been preparing for this role for most of my adult life," the candidate continued. "I believe I have the background and experience that the job of sheriff requires. The real issue in this campaign is one of leadership - who is best prepared to lead the men and women currently employed at the Berkshire County Jail and House of Correction, maintain the safety and security of this facility, collaborate with the county's law enforcement agencies and forge effective alliances with the county's social service agencies who are major players in the lives of those incarcerated at the jail. This has been my world for the last 24 years, and I'm ready to take it to the next level as sheriff."
As a former high-level jail administrator, Bowler said he already understands the process and the enormous responsibility involved in turning around the lives of people who have broken the law. The candidate noted that
there are a multitude of rehabilitation programs already in place at the jail and will not propose any additional initiatives until he has had the chance to assess the value of existing programs. "The state's fiscal crisis means there are far fewer resources to address all serious issues, including adequately funding our schools, programs for the disabled, people out of work and senior citizens. In this economic environment, we need to use what we have to its highest potential and that will take the right leadership."
Bowler said his campaign platform does not include additional spending. "In the last two years, the state has cut the jail's budget by 13 percent. Adequately staffing this facility is now an issue. Building a new lockup and other initiatives proposed by my opponent are currently beyond the means of taxpayers, who ultimately pay the bills," Bowler said. "We need to insist on the most efficient and cost-effective application of resources, which can take far more initiative and creativity than spending money."
Bowler said he will aggressively pursue grants and private funding for worthy initiatives. In addition, he will draw on the expertise of the Berkshire delegation to the State House to ensure that the jail receives adequate state funding.
"No one has a monopoly on politics," Bowler said. "It is the sheriff's role to work with staff to put together the best budget possible and then work with our state legislators to secure funding. This job requires a collaborative effort at every level."
The candidate has spent the last few months on the campaign trail, meeting groups and individuals and talking about his platform, which can be viewed in total at www.tombowlerforsheriff.com. He will participate in three televised debates in August and a countywide radio debate in early September.
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Tom Bowler for Sheriff Night at Wahconah Park
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Candidate for sheriff Thomas N. Bowler will throw out the first pitch of the game between the Pittsfield Colonials and Quebec at Wahconah Park on Tuesday, July 27, to kick off a night out for campaign volunteers, supporters and anyone who loves the game of baseball.
General admission tickets will be reduced to $4, and box seats to $7 for the evening. This is not a fundraiser for the campaign. According to Bowler, the night out at Wahconah Park is an opportunity for everyone in the area to bring family and friends to the renovated Wahconah Park to enjoy professional baseball. The game begins at 7 p.m.
Bowler is the former captain of the varsity baseball team at Taconic High School. He also played varsity baseball at American International College in Springfield for four years, where he also served as team captain. As an adult, he has helped coach his children's teams.
"As a campaign, we decided we needed a night off and there's nothing better on a summer evening in the Berkshires than baseball," Bowler said. "I'm hoping that all of our volunteers and supporters and everyone who hasn't yet had a chance to see the Pittsfield Colonials play will join us at the park."
Tickets are available at Bowler's Pittsfield campaign office on Park Square and his North Adams campaign office on Eagle Street. Tickets for the reduced prices can also be obtained at the Pittsfield Colonial's office at 2 South St. and at the gate on July 27.
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Sheriff's Office Not Involved in Campaign
The sheriff's office isn't campaigning — for anyone. That's the word from Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., who felt compelled to issue a statement on Monday clarifying the issue after more than a few calls from county residents who thought his office is stumping for candidate Thomas N. Bowler.
Massimiano, who is stepping down at the end of his current term after 32 years in office, said he's also reminded his staff that while they are free to participate in campaigns, they do so as individuals and must not represent themselves as campaigning in any official capacity.
Robert McDonough, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said several recent calls brought the matter to the sheriff's attention. In the statement released by the sheriff's office, those callers "said they have been approached by workers for the Thomas Bowler campaign who claimed to be representing the sheriff's office. At least one resident reported feeling she was being intimidated into posting a Bowler campaign sign on her property."
Bowler's sister and campaign manager Donna Mattoon said on Tuesday she was baffled by the complaints.
"We can't keep lawn signs in stock," she said. "We don't have to force anyone to host a lawn sign - we're running out."
Mattoon said the campaign ordered 5,000 signs and only has about 500 left; so many people have contacted the campaign by phone, website and Facebook, "we're running around like crazy people lately" delivering signs. Plus, she added, Massimianio was still a candidate whem Bowler threw his hat in the ring, so why would he be stumping for her brother? "I don't think anybody is confused by that issue."
Massimiano has not endorsed either Bowler or his opponent Daniel E. Bosley at this time. The two Democrats will meet in a Sept. 14 primary that is expected to decide the winner of the office.
"I want people to understand that no one is out putting up signs on behalf of the sheriff's office," Massimiano said in the statement. "If you have been told that this office wants you to post a sign — for either candidate — please call and let me know. The situation will be taken care of."
Bowler, a Pittsfield Police detective, received the overwhelming backing of Local 297 of the International Brotherhood of Correctional Officers in late February; the local represents officers working in the Berkshire County House of Correction. He also was endorsed by the local police chiefs association and Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless.
His supporters are passionate — one got into a debate with Bosley at a forum for the candidates last month. Mattoon described the campaign as "joyful."
"People aren't being discouraged from campaigning zealously," said McDonough. But, he said, it's a violation of ethics for backers who misrepresent themselves.
Mattoon said she heard the sheriff's statement on the radio Tuesday morning. "I was stunned to see that someone felt intimidated into hosting a lawn sign.
"We would never want anyone to feel intimidated," she continued. "But if somebody's lines got crossed I'd love to know about it so we can fix it."
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Bosley, Bowler Differ on Definition of Sheriff
Tom Bowler, left, Town Democratic Committee Chairman James E. Mahon Jr. and Daniel E. Bosley at Wednesday's forum.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — It became clear during Wednesday night's forum that the primary difference between the two candidates for sheriff was their definition of the job: Law enforcement or public safety.
The disparity in perception can be immediately traced to the backgrounds of the two men who hope to become Berkshire County sheriff, a seat that's open for the first time in more than 30 years.
Tom Bowler, a 24-year police officer and detective in the Pittsfield Police Department, says the job is everything to do with law enforcement; Daniel E. Bosley, a 26-year legislator representing the 1st Berkshire District, says it's public safety.
"I submit this election is going to be about whether people agree that it's law enforcement job or whether it's a public safety or administrative job," said Bosley, after a verbal tussle with an apparent Bowler supporter at the end of the 90-minute session.
It was standing room only in the Selectmen's Room as supporters from Williamstown, Adams, North Adams, Lanesborough and Pittsfield packed into the chamber to hear their candidate. More than a few were clad in blue Bowler T-shirts to declare their support for the detective.
Both candidates fielded questions from the audience, ranging from mangement style to health care costs.
The forum was hosted by the Williamstown Democratic Town Committee and moderated by its Chairman James E. Mahon Jr. It was broadcast live on WilliNet and will be available later on the WilliNet website and is expected to be broadcast on Northern Berkshire Community Television.
The two Democrats are seeking to fill the seat being left vacant by retiring Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr., who has held the position since 1978. With no independent or Republican candidate, the election will essentially be decided in the Sept. 14 primary.
During the forum, the candidates took questions from the audience and, in large part, agreed on the broader needs of the job, including that the sheriff has role to play as a social service provider for inmates in terms of rehabilitation and substance-abuse services.
"I firmly believe that the individual, you have to understand their behavior," said Bowler. "Not every person is a bad individual; they've made bad decisions."
As a police officer, he said, not only are you there to take care of the situation, you help families understand how they can get help. "What we like to do is educate families, show them they can make their lives better."
Bosley said he believed 75 percent of the state's sheriffs were social workers, pointing to Hampden County Sheriff Michael J. Ashe as an example.
On average, Houses of Correction have an inmate for nine months, inmates who have substance abuse problems, come from single-parent homes, poverty ... , he said, and facilities need to find ways to work with existing programs inside and outside the jails. "We need to find a way to be more seamless with the programs we have."
Both advocated more training programs, particularly vocational programs, to help inmates integrate back into the community and as a way to bring revenue to the jail — either by wages (for restitution) or selling items they created.
Bosley touted his ability as a representative to bring money into the county, including funding for the nearly decade-old House of Correction. His contacts in Boston and Washington, D.C., would help tap into federal and state monies, he said.
Bowler said he would look for innovative funding, such as private foundation grants as well as government monies, to aid with training programs and equipment.
For Bowler, election to sheriff would be the culmination of his career in law enforcement. "I feel everything I've done in the last 24 years has led me to that position."
He stressed his time as an investigator covering some of the most "horrific crimes" in Berkshire County, his understanding of the inmate population, the area's drug and gang problems, and his yearlong stint as assistant deputy superintendent overseeing security during the move into the new House of Correction facility.
"I want to work collaboratively," said Bowler, both as an administrator with the jail's staff and with local law enforcement. "There's the tremendous amount of information inside that jail. I've been able to extract that information and solve crimes ... I think I have a lot to offer as a public servant, not as a politician."
Bosley said he would ensure "bright lines of authority" and would assess performance and delegate authority as needed. "You have to let people do their jobs."
"I'm proud of the fact I'm a politician. A good politician is a statesman," he said, adding he accomplished nearly everything he'd set out to do, including several landmark legislative actions, and now wanted to focus on the county. He said he was familiar with the workings of the state's correctional facilities, including the Houses of Correction and stated "The sheriff has the opportunity to affect people's lives."
But where they disagreed was on the definition of the job, a point stressed by one of the audience members, who proceeded to engage with Bosley over the authorities given by the state to the deputy force and by Bowler's description of how he'd handled a potential uprising by 50 inmates some years ago. Deputies were law enforcement, insisted the man.
(Massimiano worked for the North Adams Housing Authority and in the probation office when he was elected sheriff.)
"I don't intend to run the [jail] that way," said Bosley of using the deputies to make arrests or back up local police. "It's tough enough to be a correctional officer within the House and our budget is stretched enough without giving people additional duties for jobs that other people do and do very well."
When the individual started giving "what if" scenarios, Bosley said he wasn't going to debate him and Bowler, too.
Bowler said he wanted to make clear that "I have no intention of putting roving patrols of officers patrolling Berkshire County. ... If [an inmate] escapes then we will work on a collaborative effort with every law enforcement authority in the county, as we have in the past."
The websites for both candidates can be found on the blog's siderail.
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Bowler Gets Another Boost
Sheriff candidate Tom Bowler poses with DA David F. Capeless, left, and Lenox Police Chief Steve O'Brien after being endorsed by the county's police chiefs
Tom Bowler, the Pittsfield Police detective running for Berkshire County sheriff, put another feather in his cap this morning with an endorsement from the Berkshire County Police Chiefs Association.
The monthly roundup of the county's top cops met at the Williams Inn and the gathering included District Attorney David F. Capeless and Berkshire Brigades leader Lee Harrison.
This is Bowler's second endorsement from his brothers and sisters in blue. Local 297 International Brotherhood of Correctional Officers overwhelmingly backed the former jail worker in a vote last month. Other high-ranking officers have indicated support for Bowler but won't publicly endorse anyone until after an expected primary on Sept. 14 between he and Rep. Daniel E. Bosley.
The endorsements bode ill for Bosley, the only other candidate who's confirmed he's in the race. The veteran legislator, however, isn't running on a law enforcement background but on the issues of rehabilition, education and social ills and his Beacon Hill contacts. Four others have taken out papers. Each candidate must gather 500 signatures by April 27.
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