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Race For Rensselaer County Sheriff Heads Toward Primary

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Back in January, Rensselaer County Sheriff Jack Mahar decided, unexpectedly,  not to run for a fourth term.  In a letter to county Republican Chairman John Rustin, Mahar explained he wanted to retire and spend more time with his family...

The county of about 160,000 residents includes busy riverfront city areas in Troy and Rensselaer as well as large rural stretches.  The sheriff manages the road patrol division, oversees the county jail and handles various aspects of civil law enforcement.

Several names came up as potential candidates to succeed Mahar: in the end, two decided to go all the way.

Patrick Russo, a Troy native, told WAMC earlier this year that he decided to throw his hat in the ring because he's been endersheriff for 12 years.   "I like serving the people of Rensselaer County. I think we can do a lot with the sheriff's department . We can expand the community service area, and I think I'm ready for the job."

Some powerful Republicans subscribe to that: according to a report in the Times Union, Rensselaer County's Republican Committee "unduly pressured its members to endorse" Russo, who spent 28 years with the Troy Police Department, where he worked as a detective sergeant and served eight years as the head of the narcotics bureau. "I have an extensive background in drug enforcement, and our drug guys really work hard. We have a good working relationship with all the other agencies, so one of my primary focuses would be drug enforcement throughout the county."

25-year Sheriff's department veteran Scott Ryan is Russo's GOP primary opponent.  "I handled many different parts of the operation in the sheriff's departments over those years, including K-9. I was a K-9 handler for 14 years. And I have command experience working as a Sergeant. Running many operations, my experience in teaching as an instructor for law enforcement. And in my background knowing just about every operation in the sheriff's department."

Ryan outlines his goals, if elected:    "I wanna increase the productivity, accountability, for the members of the department, and I'm going to have a leadership role, 'cause I'm going to put a strong team together, it's going to be a team concept when I go in there."

Ryan vows he'll meet the heroin challenge head-on, fine-tune operations of the county jail and increase the highway patrol's productivity.

A call to the Rensselaer County Republican Committee was not returned. Hoosick Falls Police Chief Bob Ashe had been seeking to run on the Conservative line, but has withdrawn from the race. The Democratic Party is not running a candidate.

According to the department, the sheriff serves 490,000 citizens over 477 square miles.

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