P/sunny
62°
P/sunny
Hi 60° | Lo 37°

There’ll Be a New Sheriff in Town

After 20 Years, Sullivan County’s Prozzo Ready to Hang Up Badge

  • Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Prozzo, Jr. looks through files at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office in Newport, N.H., on March 21, 2014. Prozzo is retiring at the end of his term in January, ending a 20 year career as Sullivan County Sheriff. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Prozzo, Jr. looks through files at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office in Newport, N.H., on March 21, 2014. Prozzo is retiring at the end of his term in January, ending a 20 year career as Sullivan County Sheriff.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • A photograph of Prozzo's wife, Debra Prozzo, is prominently displayed on his desk at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office in Newport, N.H.,  on March 21, 2014. Prozzo won't seek re-election in the fall after serving as the Sheriff for 20 years and will retire at the end of his current term. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

    A photograph of Prozzo's wife, Debra Prozzo, is prominently displayed on his desk at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office in Newport, N.H., on March 21, 2014. Prozzo won't seek re-election in the fall after serving as the Sheriff for 20 years and will retire at the end of his current term.
    Valley News - Sarah Priestap Purchase photo reprints »

  • Sullivan County Sheriff Michael Prozzo, Jr. looks through files at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office in Newport, N.H., on March 21, 2014. Prozzo is retiring at the end of his term in January, ending a 20 year career as Sullivan County Sheriff. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap
  • A photograph of Prozzo's wife, Debra Prozzo, is prominently displayed on his desk at the Sullivan County Sheriff's Office in Newport, N.H.,  on March 21, 2014. Prozzo won't seek re-election in the fall after serving as the Sheriff for 20 years and will retire at the end of his current term. <br/>Valley News - Sarah Priestap

Newport — After 44 years in law enforcement, the last 20 as Sullivan County sheriff, Mike Prozzo is ready to “enjoy life a little.”

Not that he hasn’t enjoyed serving the county, but Prozzo, 64, said his wife, Debra, has been spending winters in Florida, where they purchased a home, during the last few years, and he wants to join her.

“I always said I have two great loves, my wife and my job, and I miss my wife.”

Prozzo was elected to the post in 1994 after winning a primary against three other candidates and then the general election. Since then, he has run uncontested every two years.

“I would hope it is because I gave a good day’s work for the buck,” said Prozzo when asked why he never faced an election challenge. “I am very frugal when it comes to the budget, and I think I have worked hard for the people.”

A lot has changed since Prozzo, who served as Claremont’s police chief before being elected sheriff, joined the county government. Court security and transporting inmates to Superior Court were the main responsibilities of the department in the mid-1990s. Then, department then took on “control and custody” of District Court inmates, and Prozzo increased the department’s law enforcement responsibilities.

“We became more pro-active with the (New Hampshire) Drug Task Force and increased patrols,” Prozzo said.

The department is also under contract to provide law enforcement coverage in Unity and Lempster. “We expanded the role of the sheriff’s department and did more of what law enforcement agencies do,” he said.

The ever-changing world of technology has kept Prozzo challenged and motivated. “It kept it interesting,” he said. “The challenging part is finding the funding to help make the community safe.”

During Prozzo’s tenure the department received about $2 million in grants, which helped pay for computers in cruisers, radar, spike strips, personnel for the Drug Task Force and in-store compliance checks on underage customers attempting to buy alcohol.

Prozzo said he is most proud of the working relationships the department has with other agencies. “I think we have improved communications with the local police, state police and other agencies. We work well together and do a good job serving the public,” Prozzo said.

Were it not for the home in Florida, Prozzo said, he would be back on the ballot in November.

“I love working with people. It has been a great career.”

Two Sheriff’s Department members, Dennis O’Sullivan and John Simonds, have said they will be candidates to replace Prozzo. Since they are both Republicans, they will square off in a primary in September.

O’Sullivan, 50, has been second-in-command in the sheriff’s department for the last nine years. Before that, he served 19 years with the Newport Police Department. “It has been a thought of mine (to become sheriff) because I always want to move forward,” O’Sullivan said. “I have a strong desire to serve and I feel I can continue the legacy of Sheriff Prozzo.”

O’Sullivan said he had applied for some police chief jobs while in Newport and was a candidate for the Newbury, N.H., job when Prozzo contacted him “to be second-in-command in the department.”

Simonds, 44, is a former Claremont police officer and has been with the sheriff’s department for 18 months. He has also served in the police departments of Bradford, Newbury and Sutton, N.H. He served the Claremont department’s prosecutor for several years during his 12 years there.

He is running he said because it is a chance to move up in his career. “I’ve always strived to be a higher rank and my career goal is to continue to grow,” he said.

Patrick O’Grady can be reached at pogclmt@gmail.com.