WATERTOWN — After eight years away from the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, former Deputy Sheriff Peter R. Barnett has announced that he will run for Jefferson County Sheriff, and being able to step away made everything a little more clear for him.

“My heart never left, and all this time I was hoping that this opportunity would present itself and it has,” Mr. Barnett said. “My heart has never been so comfortable in making a decision of this magnitude in my life.”

Mr. Barnett said that this is something he’s always wanted to do.

Barnett to run for Jefferson Co. sheriff

Peter R. Barnett announces his run for Jefferson County Sheriff at a dinner with colleagues on Friday evening at the Italian American Civic Association in Watertown. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

“I’ve always known it, throughout my career,” Mr. Barnett said. “In the political realm, you just don’t know when the timing is right. My personal life is all settled. My wife and I are empty nesters now. We live right here in Watertown, and the timing is just right.”

Mr. Barnett spent 26 years with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office where he spent time as a deputy sheriff, detective, drug investigator, juvenile aid officer, D.A.R.E officer, speaking bureau and court security.

“As your sheriff, I will treat all individuals who are incarcerated, or otherwise involved with the criminal justice system with dignity and respect,” Mr. Barnett said.

After retiring from the Sheriff’s Office in 2013, Mr. Barnett worked with the Jefferson Country District Attorney’s Office as the investigator to the Department of Human Services and as the investigator with the public defender’s office.

Bail reform is something that Mr. Barnett would like to focus on if elected.

“There are many layers involved with the criminal justice system, and bail reform has been brought to the forefront,” Mr. Barnett said. “By working with attorneys on both sides of the fence, I have a much broader perspective when it comes to dealing with first-time offenders and repeat career criminals.”

Mr. Barnett said he will also look to “streamline” the process for people looking to obtain their pistol permits.

The “criminal element” is something Mr. Barnett said he is focused on changing.

“I’m ready to use all of the resources available to that office to help understand and eliminate some of the criminal element in the community,” Mr. Barnett said.

Mr. Barnett has also served as a high school and college lacrosse official and has worked recently at retailer Runnings on Arsenal St. in Watertown.

Barnett to run for Jefferson Co. sheriff

Peter R. Barnett announces his run for Jefferson County Sheriff at a dinner with colleagues on Friday evening at the Italian American Civic Association in Watertown. Kara Dry/Watertown Daily Times

“People have asked me, ‘Why are you dedicating yourself to retail?’ It’s simple. I enjoy working with the public, and I love helping people,” Mr. Barnett said. Mr. Barnett will also look to build “new bridges with the many great people and staff at the Public Safety Building.”

“I want to build some bridges, with some of the great staff members and employees we’ve got and listen to some of those ideas and if it’s a good idea and it fits the overall good of the department, I’m not afraid to say, ‘Hey, that’s a great idea, let’s go with it,’” Mr. Barnett said.

Mr. Barnett also extended his thanks to current Sheriff Colleen M. O’Neill, who announced in October she will not be running for sheriff in the upcoming election, and to Undersheriff Brian McDermott.

“To Sheriff O’Neill and Undersheriff McDermott, thank you for your service to the people of Jefferson County,” Mr. Barnett said. “Colleen, you and I are going to be friends long after our service to the people of Jefferson County, and I only wish you the best in the remainder of your term.”

Mr. Barnett ended his speech with a closing statement to Jefferson County residents.

“The residents and business owners of Jefferson County will be getting a highly motivated, truly dedicated, more-than-capable person in Pete Barnett to lead as your next sheriff,” Mr. Barnett said.

The election for the next sheriff of Jefferson County will take place in 2022.

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