Frewsburg resident Russell Payne wants to bump Chautauqua County up on the list of safest places to live. That's why he's running against incumbent Joe Gerace, a Democrat, for county sheriff, who officially announced his candidacy this week.
Payne, who was recently endorsed by the Republican Party, said he will rely on his extensive background in public safety to boost efficiency within the department, if elected.
He has compared Chautauqua County to Putnam County, which has been ranked by the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services as the state's safest county for the last three years.
"We're pretty much comparable as far as population is concerned, and one of the reasons they've been No. 1 is because of their sheriff, Donald Smith," Payne said.
The study ranked 57 counties, placing Chautau-qua County eighth from the bottom.
"Putnam County has close cooperation with all law enforcement agencies," Payne added. "We don't have that level of cooperation between our various police agencies, while their agencies work in a tight-knit team. That's one of the things I need to stress."
Payne is a third-generation police officer and a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy. Additionally, he worked for the Jamestown Police Department from 1973-93.
He is a former private investigator who worked for the state for 15 years, and has used his experience on all levels as a teaching assistant at BOCES.
"I have a lot of experience and I have concern for the safety of the people in not just the town of Carroll, but Chautauqua County as a whole," Payne said. "I have concern for their safety. It's a big issue because currently, the rankings put out by the Division of Criminal Justice, in my opinion, are not acceptable. I'd like to see change, and maybe copy a page out of Sheriff Smith's playbook in Putnam County."
If Payne wins the election, it won't be his first time in Mayville. He served under the supervision of Gerace as a court officer for a short period of time.
He is also a former Carroll town supervisor, and said he had thoughts of running for county sheriff during that time.
"I've been thinking about it now for the last couple of years, and I was approached by a few people in law enforcement now who said 'We think there are some changes that need to be made.'" Payne said. "Here I am. It's campaign season."
Gerace is currently in his fifth four-year term as sheriff, and plans to run again in November with a Democratic endorsement. This is the third time he will run opposed since he was first elected.