Whelan declares candidacy, Princi considers run for Barnstable County Sheriff

Statue of General Joseph Hooker outside the Massachusetts Statehouse. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By Gregory Bryant and Zhihan Yang
Boston University Statehouse Program

State Rep. Timothy Whelan, R-Brewster, announced his candidacy for Barnstable County Sheriff Thursday, while Barnstable County Assembly of Delegates Speaker Patrick Princi says he’s seriously considering a run as a Democrat.

Whelan’s announcement, made in a Facebook posting, comes a week after Barnstable County Sheriff James Cummings said he will not seek reelection when his current fourth term ends in 15 months. Cummings, 72, said he will retire after nearly 50 years in law enforcement and 24 years as sheriff.

“I had some conversation with my wife and with my children, and I looked at this as an opportunity to step up and succeed a good friend who’s done a great job running the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department,” Whelan said in an interview Thursday. “I also feel that given my work history and my resume, my experiences, as a corrections officer, as a police officer and as a policymaker and legislator on Beacon Hill, I think that I’m uniquely positioned to step in and assume the role of sheriff effectively on day one.”

The general election for the position is Nov. 2, 2022.

Cummings served 21 of his 23 years as a state police detective assigned to the Cape and Islands District Attorney’s Office.

Whelan, a retired state police trooper, is a four-term state representative for the 1st Barnstable District, which covers the town of Dennis, one precinct in Barnstable, two precincts in Brewster and five precincts in Yarmouth. He said he plans to serve out his current legislative term as he campaigns. His term officially ends in January.

“From a service position they are uniquely different positions,” Whelan said about the main differences between being a legislator and being sheriff. “One, is you’re serving as a voice for the people on Beacon Hill with legislating, bills, and laws, and budgeting. Whereas the other one is you’re basically serving as the CEO of a law enforcement agency.”

Whelan said that if elected one of his first initiatives would be to undertake “a really deep dive into the programs that the sheriff has for mental health support and for addiction treatment.” He praised Cummings’ successes in that area.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.

“But I think it’s always prudent to take a look and see if there are any areas of improvement,” he said. “Because if you follow the old Jewish proverb, which is you save one life, you save the world, they’re saving lives is what they’re doing at the sheriff’s department through their work. And any way to make it more effective, more vigorous is certainly something that I think we would want to examine.”

Princi, a probation officer in his fifth term as Barnstable’s delegate to the county’s Assembly of Delegates, said he is considering running for the job but it’s still early since Cummings’ announcement was only last week. The assembly is the regional government’s legislative branch and consists of 15 delegates, one for each town on Cape Cod.

“So at this point, I’m talking to people within my supporters, more importantly, …discussing it with my young family,” Princi, 47, said in an interview Thursday. He said running for the job is an opportunity to make a serious change in long-standing practices at the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department such as political patronage, “and trying to really focus on the correction piece of the sheriff’s job by correcting people and improving public safety.”

He said he would probably decide by the end of the month whether to jump into the race.

Whelan, a retired state trooper, serves as the ranking minority member on the Joint Committee on Public Service, which oversees salaries, civil service and retirement of public employees and collective bargaining for state employees and other public employees.

He also serves on the House Committee on Ways and Means, which develops the state budget — $47.6 billion for fiscal year 2022 — and considers legislation pertaining to the state’s finances.

He was a Massachusetts State Police sergeant and shift commander in the Bourne and South Yarmouth barracks, according to the release announcing his candidacy Thursday. He also was trained by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in strategic counterterrorism and emergency response.

Prior to that, Whelan was a lieutenant and shift commander with the Worcester County Sheriff’s Department in both the medium and minimum security sections, as well as a line officer serving in maximum security and protective custody.

A U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Whelan attended Western New England University where he studied law enforcement. He had advanced training courses in narcotics, advanced investigations, and personnel management, the release said.

In an October 2020 profile in the Times prior to his reelection that November, Whelan said: “I refer to myself as more of a centrist. I’m a Republican, but I’m very much a centrist. I’m a moderate and I believe that my views mirror that.”

This story originally appeared in the Cape Cod Times.

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