For the first time in four decades, there’s a new sheriff in Saratoga County.
Voters chose Republican and Independence Party candidate Michael Zurlo to replace retiring Sheriff James Bowen, according to unofficial results from the Saratoga County Board of Elections.
It was the first time Bowen, who endorsed Zurlo, did not seek re-election in his 41 years as sheriff.
Zurlo, with 28,521 votes totaling 61 percent, defeated Conservative Phil Lindsey, who also ran as a Democrat and earned 16,341 votes for 35 percent, and Jason Longton Jr., who ran on the Stop Corruption independent line and earned 3 percent with 1,435 votes.
The Saratoga County Board of Elections sent out 2,804 absentee ballots. As of Monday, 1,850 were turned in, meaning the untallied absentee votes won’t affect the outcome of the race for the county’s top cop.
At about 10:30 p.m., Zurlo sent out a tweet: “We did it! Thank you!” from the Holiday Inn in Saratoga Springs where he was watching election results with Saratoga County Republicans.
“We’re very happy. Everybody’s excited. A lot of members of the (sheriff’s) department are here, supporters and family,” Zurlo said.
The race for Saratoga County sheriff in the general election was relatively quiet compared to a heated summer — with accusations of campaign position misrepresentation and stolen political signs — leading up to the Republican primary in which Zurlo defeated Jeff Gildersleeve.
Zurlo, 59, of Stillwater, was endorsed by Bowen, the county Republican Committee, a host of Republican lawmakers and luminaries, law enforcement union Council No. 82, the union that represents county corrections officers and the Civil Service Employees Association.
Zurlo worked with the Sheriff’s Office for 32 years, rising to the rank of lieutenant before retiring and becoming a town justice in Stillwater.
“I think it’ll be a smooth transition,” Zurlo said.
He has been working part time in corporate, background and insurance fraud investigations at Worldwide Investigative Group in Clifton Park, but he won’t be working there while he is sheriff.
“I’m very excited. I have big shoes to fill. He’s (Bowen) been there 41 years and he’s a friend and mentor to me. We’re going to build on his successes,” Zurlo said.
Longton, 46, of Greenfield Center, worked for the Saratoga Springs, Glens Falls and Corinth Police Department, which was disbanded in 2007. He ran on a platform of rooting out corruption in local governments.
Lindsey, 51, of Gansevoort, has been a South Glens Falls police officer since 2009 after he retired from the Glens Falls Police Department and has also worked at various police agencies throughout his career. He said during the campaign he was the only choice who still worked in law enforcement.
Zurlo’s use of technology throughout the campaign, including consistent tweets and Facebook updates, even a “shareable” created on Facebook, dovetailed with his platform of updating the department’s technological prowess to better communicate with the public.
Now that he’s elected, updating the website and email systems are a priority.
“Technology’s going to be big,” Zurlo said.
But his top priority after he’s sworn in will be to meet with everyone in the department, listen to them, and explain his expectations. Strengthening relationships with other law enforcement agencies is also high on the list.
Zurlo recently established the Teen Safety Advisory Committee, hoping to replace the D.A.R.E. (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program eliminated years ago, that involves students and school officials from different districts to focus on problems like bullying and drug use. He said he plans to involve more districts in that effort.
Attempts to reach Longton and Lindsey after the results came in were unsuccessful.