St. Lawrence County’s sheriff retires, reflects on career

Updated: Dec. 31, 2019 at 2:34 PM EST
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CANTON, N.Y. (WWNY) - St. Lawrence County Sheriff Kevin Wells retires Tuesday. He reflected on his 35 year law enforcement career with 7 News reporter Keith Benman.

It's the big cases where everyone sees you. But there's a lot of important stuff that goes unseen, like getting a new county jail up and running 12 years ago.

“It was needed for those people, safer environment for those people that we're in charge of, as far as inmates go. But it was also needed to improve and to make a safer work environment for the staff that work here,” said Wells.

The new jail was one of many projects Wells worked on. And there were those big cases – like the 2014 kidnapping of two Amish girls. The three-term sheriff said he kept one thing in mind with everything he did.

“Just be there. Do what the people ask you to do and expect of you. They're not always going to be the most popular decisions that you make. But at the same time you need to be there for the people,” said Wells.

He does have a regret. He feels new criminal justice reforms may actually hurt those they're designed to protect, especially when it comes to getting drug abusers and others mental health services.

“Some of those issues that we were helping with at the correctional level, we're not going to be able to do anymore because of these changes and I don't think that was ever taken into account,” he said.

Wells started as a road patrol deputy 35 years ago. He served 8 years as undersheriff before being elected sheriff three times.

There's a new sheriff in town on January 1 - Brooks Bigwarfe. He was elected in November. He has pledged to continue many of Wells' policies, but also has some new programs planned, which he'll be rolling out this year.

Bigwarfe has already been sworn in and says he’ll hit the ground running. He says Wells and those before him have set the example.

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