Former Greensburg district judge will challenge Sheriff Held in next election
Retired Greensburg district judge James Albert on Tuesday announced he will be a candidate next year for Westmoreland County sheriff.
With dozens of friends and supporters watching, including several current deputy sheriffs and elected officials, Albert, a Democrat, said he's ready to replace two-term Republican Sheriff Jonathan Held.
“I think I can do a great job for the sheriff's office,” Albert said at his campaign kickoff rally at Pizza Siena in Greensburg.
Held was elected sheriff in 2011 and re-elected in 2015. His tenure overseeing the office, which provides courtroom security, prisoner transport and warrant service, has been marred by a series of lawsuits filed against him by current and former employees.
Earlier this year, Held was charged by agents with the state's Attorney General's Office with three criminal counts alleging that he used on-duty deputies and county equipment for campaign activities.
Held has maintained his innocence, and his trial is scheduled to begin in August.
On Tuesday, Held said he planned to seek a third-term.
Albert, 68, served 27 years as district judge in Greensburg before retiring at the end of 2016 and moving to New Alexandria with his wife, Michelle. He said the recent controversy in the sheriff's office, where he worked as a deputy for eight years in the 1980s, convinced him to run.
“There are many quality deputies in the sheriff's office, but they are not being properly used,” Albert said. “He (Held) has numerous lawsuits, and the county has had to pay because of his bad decisions.”
The county has paid more than $250,000 in out-of-court settlements and attorney fees in connection with a dozen lawsuits filed against Held and the sheriff's office.
“I will surround myself with qualified people, and we will make the sheriff's office respectable again,” Albert said.
He said he would attempt to restore warrant service chores to local constables and restart an auxiliary deputy program in which volunteers supported the department activities through traffic duties, crowd control and other services.
Albert previously worked as a Greensburg police officer and a detective with the county's District Attorney's office. He also served on the Greensburg Salem School Board and Greensburg City Council.
Rich Cholodofsky is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-830-6293 or firstname.lastname@example.org.