The race for Niagara County Sheriff is competitive with former sheriff’s deputy Brian Grear announcement of his candidacy.
Grear ran for sheriff on the Republican line in 2005, against Sheriff Thomas Beilein, and tried for the line again in 2008 but the GOP went with Ernest Palmer.
This time around, Grear is running as a Democrat, after changing his party affiliation last year, and he’s taking on Acting Sheriff Michael Filicetti, who got the county Democratic Committee’s endorsement last week.
Grear also is seeking the endorsement of the Working Families Party, according to his campaign manager, William Nye.
Grear said he has spent his entire adult life in uniform. He retired from the sheriff’s office after 22 years on the job, and after a break to devote more time to his family and his flourishing business, AK Topsoil in Lockport, he went back to policing on a part-time basis about four years ago, at the invitation of Frank Previte, chief of Lewiston Police Department.
“I’ve always loved being a policeman,” Grear said. “At the time that I retired, we had four young daughters, so running a growing business, having a young family and then working 40 hours at the sheriff’s department, something had to give. It wasn’t the family. It wasn’t the business. ... so I decided to retire from the sheriff’s office.”
Grear said he’s running for sheriff again to give voters in Niagara County a choice.
“For me, the good I can do for the community by sitting as the sheriff of Niagara County, that’s what interests me most,” he said.
He recalls that when Jim Voutour’s retirement from the sheriff’s post was announced, his phone “lit up like a Christmas tree for days” as people called to encourage his run for the job.
One of the main issues he would like to tackle as sheriff is the 911 Communications Center, which he feels is overwhelmed. Grear said he is opposed to forcing central dispatch’s takeover of other municipalities’ dispatching.
“My stance was then and it’s the same now,” he said. “I think the municipality, being the police chief and fire chief, are best suited to make a decision on their dispatch staying in the city or their dispatch going to the county.”
As a property taxpayer in Lockport, he prefers Lockport Police Department keeping its dispatch in-house, he added.
“The opinion of many and the opinion that I hold is if I have to call 911 for any type of problem at my business I would like to talk to somebody in the city,” Grear said.
Adding LPD to the county dispatch system would worsen conditions in already overwhelmed communications room, he asserted.
“Mistakes are being made ... . Sending more on top of their already overburdened case load, it’s a lot,” Grear said.
Grear said he would also like to improve the sheriff’s office’s relationships with other police departments and the public, suggesting that he would commit to hosting a bi-weekly open lunch at the sheriff’s office at which anyone to come in and talk with him.
Grear’s pitch to voters is that he’s spent his entire career out in the community.
“I haven’t spent my career behind a desk. I’ve spent my career on the streets of Niagara County, whether it’s through my business, through the volunteer fire service, or as a policeman,” he said. “I love being out and about. I’ve got a lot of energy. I love people.”