Updated: Jan 6
QUINCY — Former Mayor William Phelan is considering a run for Norfolk County sheriff, challenging sitting Sheriff Jerry McDermott, retired State Police Detective James Coughlin and Norfolk County Register of Probate Patrick McDermott.
In November, voters will elect a sheriff for the next two years, completing the term of former Norfolk County Sheriff Michael Bellotti, who left the position in November 2018 to be interim president of Quincy College. Gov. Charlie Baker appointed Jerry McDermott, a Republican, to fill the seat until the election later this year.
Whoever wins the election would have to run again in November 2022, when someone will be elected to a full six-year term.
Phelan served three terms as mayor of Quincy — from 2002 to 2008 — and was on the school committee for two years before that. He is the son-in-law of Quincy District Court Clerk Magistrate Arthur Tobin, who is also a former Quincy mayor. Phelan was town administrator of Holbrook from 2011 to 2015.
Phelan, who has a private law practice in Quincy, said he has the skill set and qualifications to take over as sheriff, and pointed to his experience in law and as a board member at Father Bill’s and Mainspring. He said his priorities would be to focus on substance abuse, mental health and job training in the county jail.
“Simply, I like to help people. I was brought up to believe that the reason we’re here is to help one another, and that’s what drew me to public service.”
“I’m a practical person. I think I have some innovative qualities and I’m reform-minded, but I’m also very practical,” he said. “The sheriff’s position is a position that you can really make a difference in somebody’s life. That’s what’s drawing me to it.”
Jerry McDermott is running his first campaign for sheriff, after having served in the position for over a year. He said the experience has allowed him to learn about the positions and programs of the sheriff’s department in depth, and that recidivism and the opioid crisis are the two largest obstacles facing the department.
“My hope is to continue on and help the people who come into our care and custody get rehabilitated and have a successful reentry back into the world,” he said. “We want to help them not reoffend, not commit other crimes and not go back to using drugs or alcohol.”
McDermott said making facilities and programs equal for men and women would be a priority. Norfolk County does not have the facilities to house female offenders.
Prior to his appointment, Jerry McDermott was state director in the office of former U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, executive director of South Shore Habitat for Humanity and a Boston city councilor.
Former Quincy City Councilor Patrick McDermott, a Democrat, said he wants to prevent crime by battling addiction, joblessness and homelessness. He has been register of Norfolk County Probate and Family Court for the last 17 years.
“I was weighing with my family whether or not I was going to run for a fourth term for register of probate, and when Mike Bellotti stepped down I decided to look into if it was a good fit for me. The short answer was yes,” he said. “I’m an attorney, a former prosecutor, a former Quincy councilor — I’m up for the challenge.”
Patrick McDermott said he thinks his long-standing involvement with local agencies will set him up for success, especially when it comes to recidivism and the reentry of inmates to society.
“That’s what we should be focusing the most on,” he said. “I’m just not sold on the effectiveness of the programs that are currently there.”
Democrat James “Jimmy” Coughlin, a 29-year veteran of the State Police force, announced his candidacy in April. A retired detective captain, Coughlin’s website says he would focus on reducing recidivism if elected.
The latest reports from the Office of Campaign and Political Finance show Patrick McDermott had $50,000 in his campaign account as of the end of 2019, Coughlin had $45,000 and Jerry McDermott had $72,000. Phelan just organized his campaign committee last month, and has not yet had to submit financial information to the state.