Democrat Steve Barry easily won election as Summit County sheriff Tuesday, marking the first time since 2000 that voters had faced a choice for the county’s top law enforcement officer.
Barry, 55, of Green, is a retired captain from the sheriff’s office. He rose through the ranks from his first post there, as a part-time deputy, before his 2009 retirement.
He defeated Republican challenger Randy Rivers, 57, of Cuyahoga Falls, who was a former Falls police captain.
Departing Sheriff Drew Alexander, a Republican, crossed party lines to endorse Barry for the top job.
Alexander, who became sheriff in 2000, chose not to seek a fourth, four-year term after running unopposed in 2004 and 2008.
Barry, who grew up in the Ellet area of Akron and graduated from Ellet High, previously served in the sheriff’s office for 32 years. He was a deputy and detective, then served in command positions as a sergeant, lieutenant and captain.
After spending his entire law enforcement career in the sheriff’s office, he said he has “a love for the place and the people. And I feel I’m well-qualified to do the job.”
Barry said he was “very surprised” about his margin of victory.
“I’m ecstatic and humbled at the same time. We got a great show of support. We campaigned for 15 months, starting in August 2011 with our first event, and the people, the unions, just everybody, have just been fantastically supportive,” Barry said. “And I really appreciate everything they’ve done for this campaign.
“I can’t be thankful enough to everyone,” he said.
Barry said one of his major goals as sheriff will be to work with the county council, the county executive and FOP Lodge 139, representing county deputies, on fiscal matters and staff morale at the Summit County Jail after so many cutbacks.
“We are stretched to the limits in personnel and the programs we used to have when I worked there over the years,” Barry said.
He said he already has begun talking to local ministers, retired sheriff’s deputies and supervisors about the addition of inmate programs regarding anger management, family issues and religious mentoring.
“Statistics show that when inmates are locked up for long periods of time, it’s a much more volatile environment and inmate-to-inmate assaults increase, as well as assaults on sworn and civilian staff [members],” he said.
Jail programs, after screening the inmates, would get them out of their cells and, hopefully, create a much more peaceful atmosphere, Barry said.
“We also have to take a look at the mental health issue [of inmates] that was brought under the spotlight by Sheriff Alexander,” he said.
Agency spending also must be scrutinized, Barry said, “and that would start at the top with me.”
Ed Meyer can be reached at 330-996-3784 or at email@example.com.