Massimiano pulls out of race

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Berkshire Eagle Staff

 PITTSFIELD — Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano Jr. announced Thursday that he's withdrawing from the sheriff's race because of “ ongoing health issues” involving him and his wife.

The announcement, via press release, came four days after The Eagle ran a story in which Massimiano, 65, said he would seek re-election in November.

The health issues were not specified in the release.

Massimiano — the county sheriff since 1978 — could not be reached for comment again Thursday, and has not spoken with The Eagle since last week. He and his wife, Linda, are vacationing in Puerto Rico, according to Darby O'Brien, whose South Hadley-based public relations firm was hired by Massimiano's campaign. O'Brien said Massimiano will finish his current term.

But the sheriff cannot “effectively manage a re-election campaign while continuing to uphold the duties of his office, addressing his own health issues, and providing support to his wife as she deals with her ongoing medical concerns,” O'Brien said in the release.

“We were working on the re-election campaign. We were really zeroing in on the issues and his record,” O'Brien told The Eagle in a live interview.

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The press release said Massimiano's decision grew out of a discussion with his wife. Massimiano's six-year term expires on Jan. 5, 2011, the day before a new sheriff will be sworn in. One candidate — veteran Pittsfield Police Detective Thomas N. Bowler — has announced his intention to run, and one other — state Rep. Daniel E. Bosley — has decided to run, according to sources with close ties to the North Adams Democrat.

Bowler announced his candidacy on Wednesday, the day before Massimiano withdrew from the race. The sheriff hadn't faced an opponent since 1980.

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Bowler, 50, said Massimiano's decision caught him off-guard. "I didn't see this one coming," Bowler said. "I was prepared for a very difficult race against a tough incumbent."

The fact that Massimiano has decided not to run again "in no way diminishes his contributions to our community for more than 30 years," Bowler said. "I wish the sheriff and Linda a long, healthy and happy retirement."

Berkshire District Attorney David F. Capeless also was taken aback by Massimiano's announcement, although he said he was aware of the declining health of the sheriff and his wife. " We've always had a great working relationship," Capeless said. "But considering what he's going through, I sympathize with that decision. We have very difficult jobs, and our families are of primary importance to us."

Capeless said the next sheriff should be someone "who understands law enforcement and has a good working relationship with the law enforcement community."

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Mayor James M. Ruberto said he was surprised by the timing of Massimiano's decision. He praised the sheriff's service to the community.

" The sheriff has used that office to prevent people from ending up in the jail," he said. "His passion and investment in education for at-risk youth speaks volumes. People will say his legacy is the jail itself, but I say it's all those kids who have graduated from our school system."

Massimiano served on the Pittsfield School Committee for 12 years before losing in the Nov. 3 election. He was the only candidate ousted in a seven-way race for six school board seats. As sheriff, Massimiano's greatest legacy is the $ 34 million Berkshire County Jail & House of Correction, which opened in 2001.

Massimiano, who was first appointed sheriff by then-Gov. Michael S. Dukakis in 1978, is the longest- serving sheriff in county history. On Wednesday, he told his staff at the jail that he would not seek another six-year term, effectively ending his 32-year career.

According to state payroll records, Massimiano earned $123,209 as sheriff in 2008. The primary function of the job is to oversee the daily administration of the county jail, which as of this week had 321 inmates, according to the Massachusetts Department of Correction.

Eagle staff members Conor Berry, Benning W. De La Mater, Tim Farkas and Kevin Moran contributed to this report.


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