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Jefferson County Sheriff candidates bring different job experiences to the race

Bocciolatt Campaign/O'Neill Campaign
John Bocciolatt (R) and Colleen O'Neill (D) are running for Jefferson County sheriff

Jefferson County will select a new sheriff Tuesday. Republican John Bocciolatt and Democrat Colleen O'Neill have both spent 28 years working in law enforcement, and each says they have the right kind of experience for the job. 

John Bocciolatt says he knows the duties of county sheriff mostly take place behind a desk. 

"It's really about your ability to communicate and team build," Bocciolatt said.

Bocciolatt says starting with his graduate degree in criminal justice administration, he has vast knowledge of what goes into the behind-the-scenes work in a police department.

"I've had an exchange of ideas," he said. "I've worked in police personnel management for two years, hiring and firing."

Bocciolatt spent his career working in Portland, Oregon. For nine of those years he worked with a narcotics task force where he says he supervised as many as 20 officers at a time. 

Colleen O'Neill is a former state senior investigator, where she says she supervised troopers and up to 50 staff members. O'Neill claims it's her familiarity with the area and the Watertown Police Department that puts her at an advantage over Bocciolatt. Her father is former Jefferson County Sheriff Al O'Neill.

"If elected sheriff, I have the benefit of not starting from zero," O'Neill said. "I know who the prosecutors are. I know who the defense attorneys are. I know who is on parole and probation. I know who the other law enforcement agencies are on the local level and, of course, with the state police."

O'Neill and Bocciolatt say the alleged corruption in the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is what motivated them to run. Both promise to make leadership and ethics a priority. If she wins, O'Neill would be the first elected woman sheriff in New York.