CAPE MAY COUNTY – Richard Harron, who worked 27 years in the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office, announced last week his run for sheriff in the June Republican primary.
Harron, 52, of Lower Township, formally announced his intention at a Jan. 6 gathering. He said he wanted to give voters a choice in the race for sheriff, which has not been the norm over the last 30 years.
He joins Undersheriff Bob Nolan, 58, in seeking the endorsement of the county Republican organization as their candidate for sheriff. Cape May County sheriff is an elected position and one of the county’s constitutional officers. The successful primary candidate will run in the November general election.
“I have seen a lot of changes over the 27 years of service with the sheriff’s office; some good and some not so good,” Harron said.
Harron said he wanted to run a positive campaign, but he believes the sheriff’s office has become less supportive of local police departments and the growth of its own employees. Harron described what he calls a New Direction Campaign, in which he will work on three major objectives: to have the sheriff’s office provide more direct support to the local police departments in helping them reduce the drug epidemic and crime that is affecting their communities, and during local and county-wide emergencies; promote team building and foster opportunities for the staff that will allow them to professionally grow in their careers; and formulate a best practice strategy to guide the sheriff’s office through internal hiring, training, promotional and disciplinary phases of employment.
Cape May County Sheriff Gary Schaffer, 66, who was first elected in 2008, announced his decision not to seek reelection at a Dec. 14 gathering of Republican municipal leaders in Avalon. Schaffer cited health issues and other personal reasons for his decision not to seek a fourth term as Cape May County sheriff. The next day, Nolan told The Gazette he was advising the Republican committee members by letter of his intention to run for sheriff.
On Jan. 2, a committee to elect Harron sent out a press release saying Harron would formally announce his intention to run for sheriff on Jan. 6 at the Avalon Links golf course, where he gathered the 100 signatures required for the primary election.
Harron retired from the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office in 2009. He was hired in June 1984 as a corrections officer, and was later promoted to sergeant, lieutenant, administrative lieutenant and captain. In June 2002 he was appointed warden of the county jail, where he served until he retired July 1, 2009.
He said he continued to work for two years on the Electronic Monitoring Program he started just before his retirement. While Harron was warden the jail received national accreditation as a correctional center, he said.
Nolan, 58, also began with the sheriff’s department in 1984. Nolan started his law enforcement career as a corrections officer, and was later transferred to the law enforcement division.
Harron said he served on the New Jersey County Jail Warden’s Association Executive Board for six years. He worked with the Police Training Commission to standardize and improve the basic training curriculum statewide for new correction officers, he said. Harron said he has received multiple awards from the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office during his 27 years of service.
Harron said there are about 27,000 undeclared voters in Cape May County, meaning the political parties are failing to connect with them. Harron told his supporters it was the right time to “inject some excitement to a race that has been historically unchallenged.”
He said he wished to encourage voters to get behind an independent, positive campaign. He said he wished to re-energize the sheriff’s office through a style of leadership that promotes positive feedback, communications, and takes a team oriented approach.
Harron said he was not the “entrenched” party candidate.
“I think I bring a different perspective than what we’ve been getting,” Harron said.
Harron said good things have happened over Schaffer’s tenure as sheriff and Harron said he was involved in some of them, such as the House Arrest Program. Harron said as the warden of the county jail, he tried to instill pride in corrections work.
“It’s a tough and thankless job. Basically, our corrections officers are serving time with the inmates,” Harron said.
Harron said on the other hand, services have been taken away by the sheriff’s office.
“The sheriff’s department pulled back on transports, taking local police off the streets. I want to have a more cooperative relationship with local departments that don’t feel they have the support they once had,” Harron said.
Harron said he wants to bring “new blood” to the sheriff’s office, including his own.
Asked what separates him from candidate Nolan, Harron said there are a multitude of things. He said his emergency management experience brings a lot to the table, along with his ability to coordinate and to think outside the box and make things happen. He said he was the jail warden when its population was at its highest, and he managed to get things done without burdening the taxpayers.
Harron said he attended Lower Cape May Regional High School, obtained Public Manager certification at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Command and Leadership certification from the New Jersey Police Chief’s West Point and Command Leadership program, and attended various other state and federal law enforcement training programs, as well as Cape May County firefighter certification.
Harron is a lifelong resident of Lower Township. He and his wife, Margaret, are parents to Rich Jr. (Kristen), a Wildwood firefighter and past Villas Fire Company chief, Bryan (Jenell), a Cape May Department of Public Works employee and current Villas Fire Company chief. The Harrons have three grandchildren (Richard, Payton and Brooke).