Trumbull County Sheriff Thomas Altiere says he is seeking what would be his sixth and final term as sheriff.
He also may be facing one of his most serious challenges, which is coming from a long-time employee in his department, James Phillips, who retired two years ago as a major.
During an endorsement interview with Vindicator editors, Phillips, 60, said operation of the sheriff’s department has declined under Altiere’s leadership and that manpower is not being utilized efficiently.
The department has become reactive, rather than proactive, Phillips said and morale is low.
But some of the numbers Phillips cited didn’t compute and Altiere told a different story. If morale is low, he said, it is because budget restraints have kept deputies from getting a pay raise for five years. But in the meantime they have continued to perform their duties well, serving the statutory requirements of the department and protecting the safety of county residents.
Both Altiere, 62, of Howland, and Phillips, 60, of Farmdale, have more than three decades in law enforcement. Both hold college degrees in criminal justice and have done postgraduate work. They are clearly qualified for the office they are seeking.
Phillips argues that he is the better choice in this election, based on his perception that Altiere is not performing adequately.
But if Altiere has become as detached from his duties as Phillips alleges, it doesn’t show. Altiere talked enthusiastically about his strategy to do more with less in the sheriff’s department, by cutting gasoline costs through a new bidding process, for instance, and by putting together departmental promotion exams rather than hiring a consultant. He’s also been encouraging other departments to consolidate their dispatch operations through the county 911 center.
Certainly we have seen sheriffs who have stayed too long at the helm. But we’re not persuaded that Altiere is one of them.
He says he’s looking forward to four more years with enthusiasm, and we believe him. The Vindicator endorses the re-election of Thomas Altiere in Trumbull County.