The primary election may not be until March, but Lorain County sheriff Phil Stammitti has already filed to seek reelection.
“I still love my job, number one, and I still love serving the citizens of Lorain County,” he said.
Stammitti, a Lorain native, has more than 40 years of law enforcement experience, starting as a Lorain police officer where he served 13 years before working his way up the ranks at the sheriff’s office. He has served four terms as sheriff and is seeking a fifth.
During his tenure, he has supported existing efforts such as community policing, substations throughout the county, school resource officer programs, the bomb squad unit and SWAT team, and the county drug task force.
Stammitti has also started numerous programs including child ID programs, an honor guard unit, a sexual offender and predator unit, and a bicycle unit.
He worked with county commissioners in 2011 to connect the sheriff’s office dispatch center with 911 to save money and hire three additional deputies.
In 2013, Stammitti began a fatherhood program in the jail to connect incarcerated men with their children.
The following year, he worked with community groups to start a veterans outreach program and a re-entry program inside the jail.
Yet Stammitti said there is still much he wants to accomplish.
At the top of the list is Project Lifesaver, a tracking program that uses special bracelets to locate missing people with autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other disabilities.
Erie and Ottawa counties already use Project Lifesaver. “It’s had a very high success rate,” the sheriff said. “Usually they find them within an hour.”
Here, the Lions Club has committed to sponsor the program launch and is actively fundraising.
Stammitti is also worried about Ohio’s heroin epidemic. The Lorain County Drug Task Force, under the leadership of chief deputy Dennis Cavanaugh, is finding a lot of heroin, he said — and not just in the inner city. It’s pervasive in rural towns and suburbs, among men and women, and both the young and old.
Often, heroin is mixed with fentanyl, which can cause violent overdose reactions in users.
“The addiction rate is huge and young people and older people alike are trying it at an alarming rate,” Stammitti said.
He’s pledging his deputies to continue educating against illegal drug use and legal drug abuse. A big part of that effort is the DARE program overseen by the LCSO.
“People remember the DARE officers 20 years down the road,” Stammitti said. “I’ve had people walk up to our deputies and say, ‘I remember you from when I was in fifth or sixth grade.’ I think they have an important and lasting effect.”
Valerie Urbanik and Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-775-1611 or on Twitter @ValUrbanik and @EditorHawk.