Armstrong County sheriff endorses Democrat Rupert

| Tuesday, Sept. 24, 2013, 1:21 a.m.

The November general election is fast approaching and campaign signs for Armstrong County Sheriff have sprouted along area roads and in front yards, as Democratic candidate Bill Rupert and Republican candidate Chris Sweeney prepare to go head to head for the soon-to-be vacated position of Sheriff Larry Crawford.

On Monday, Crawford weighed in on the race by endorsing Rupert.

Now that Rupert, 45, of Rural Valley has been endorsed by Crawford, he said he is feeling confident as he heads into the last few weeks of his campaign.

“I have some really big shoes to fill,” Rupert said. “But I feel confident that I can and obviously (Crawford) does too or he wouldn't be endorsing me.”

The newly elected sheriff will take over from the retiring Crawford in January.

The sheriff oversees courthouse security, prisoner transports, serving court documents and issuing gun permits.

Rupert said he has the full endorsement of Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi and the support of the Armstrong Police Association, the Fraternal Order of Police's Brady Paul Lodge 54 and from area firefighters.

Andreassi said that “Bill possesses the skills and experience necessary to continue the great work Larry began. He is, without a doubt, the best candidate and has my unqualified endorsement.”

Crawford noted that Rupert has had leadership positions in the Rural Valley Fire Department, where he is assistant fire chief and president.

Rupert, a county native, is general manager for an oil and gas company, has been a Manor Township police officer for 13 years, is a member of the Armstrong County Narcotics Task Force Team (ARMNET) and has 27 years experience as a volunteer firefighter.

“(Rupert's) leadership quality is one of the reasons why I'm endorsing him,” Crawford said. “And he is fiscally responsible,” he said, noting that the sheriff's office has a responsibility to use resources as wisely as possible.

Sweeney, however, isn't worried about the endorsements Rupert has garnered.

“I don't pay too much attention to the competition,” Sweeney said.

Sweeney, 47, has a seven-year military background with the Army National Guard and has 12 years' experience working with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program.

He is on the board of directors of Family A.C.T.S., a drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in Ford City.

Sweeney, who owns and operates Rodeway Inn in Manor along with several other businesses, said he earned a doctorate in law and wrote his thesis on the importance of the Second Amendment.

As a law student, he interned for a time in Andreassi's office.

If elected, Sweeney said, he would focus on establishing more police power within the sheriff's office.

“I'd like to see us formulate our own (crime) task force internally,” he said.

He has suggested establishing sheriff sub-stations in the most heavily populated areas of the county, manned by deputies, to help fight crime.

And although he concedes that local law enforcement agencies are doing the best they can, there “is simply not enough manpower” to stop the rising incidents of burglaries and drug-related crime, he said.

“We need a change from the same,” Sweeney said. “Action steps are needed at every level.”

Brigid Beatty is a staff writer for Trib Total Media.

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