|Barbalunga Launches Bid for Berkshire County Sheriff|
|By Brittany Polito, iBerkshires Staff |
04:41PM / Tuesday, June 14, 2022
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The driving force behind candidate Alfred E. Barbalunga's bid for Berkshire County sheriff is to make the region a safe place to live, work and play.
He launched his campaign on Monday evening at Zucchini's Restaurant, mounting a primary challenge to incumbent Thomas Bowler, who was first elected to a six-year term in 2010 and has announced his intention to run for a third term.
Barbalunga has 28 years of combined corrections, law enforcement, and public safety experience and currently works as the chief probation officer of the Southern Berkshire District. He is also a former chair of the Pittsfield School Committee.
As a father and a husband, Barbalunga said his interest is exclusively in his family and bettering Berkshire County.
"I'm running for sheriff because I'm not convinced we're not getting the quality leadership we deserve from the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office," he said to a crowd of around 40 attendees.
Barbalunga said he wished Bowler and his team the best at the start of his first term but after more than a decade, he said it became apparent that a different leadership choice is offered.
"The sheriff's office must be accountable and transparent to the county it serves," he said. "It must include a diversity of voices and views on that leadership team."
He and campaign chair Brandon Mauer, a retired State Police detective, outlined a five-point initial plan to get this done. The first priority is to make sure that residents of the county know how the sheriff's office is managed and where the money goes.
Barbalunga identified financial responsibility and stewardship as the core of his campaign.
"They deserve to know how their taxpayer dollars have been spent over these past 12 years and what deliverables these 30 towns and two cities have received for these expenditures," he said.
"Did you know the Berkshire County Sheriff's Office's annual budget is $21 million? That's $15 million more than the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office and that's $10 million more than the Pittsfield Police Department," Barbalunga said.
"Most people can't tell you the first thing about where the money is being spent and I believe it's on purpose. It's a glaring transparency issue."
He added that the sheriff's office can't warehouse incarcerated individuals any longer and that it needs to develop skills that will allow inmates to productively re-enter the community.
Barbalunga also pledged to return local inmates from the Western Massachusetts Regional Women's Correctional Center in Chicopee.
"The women are at a tremendous disadvantage socially, economically, criminogenic factors and then to necessitate a three-hour round trip for their children, their family, their loved ones, their attorneys, all their support network services is at best cruel and at worst, perhaps gender discriminatory," he said. "There is and has always been room with the Cheshire Road facility for our female population."
He said transporting women to Chicopee also adds an expense line item for transportation costs, inflated prices of fuel, and overtime.
"The female population needs the most help not banishment from their support epicenter," Barbalunga argued.
His other promises were to serve a maximum of two terms to make way for fresh leadership, to not accept campaign contributions from sheriff's department employees, and that he and his team will not participate in petty and personal attacks.
In closing, he vowed, if elected, to make the hard decisions on how every tax dollar is spent and make sure that every Berkshire County resident can also track the money being spent.
"I'll make sure my office does everything in its power to make sure Berkshire County is the safest possible place to live to play and to raise a family," Barbalunga said.
"I don't profess to know every answer to every problem we face but do know this, no one has the credentials, clarity, conviction, and commitment that I do to run the best sheriff's office in the entire commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I choose to do it here in Berkshire County."
Attendees included invited dignitaries Ward 3 Councilor Kevin Sherman, Parks Commission Chair Clifford Nilan, and former School Committee Chair Katherine Yon.
Barbalunga hopes to have a debate with Bowler and said the campaign has been going very well despite being late to the game. Barbalunga waited to get permission to take a leave for the campaign before he announced his bid.
With no Republican or independent candidates, the winner is expected to be determined in the Democratic primary.