Sheriff Robert Fyock held off the first opposition that he faced since 2003 to earn a fifth term as the county’s top law enforcement officer.
Fyock, a Republican, polled almost 62 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Democrat Lou Sacco, a police officer for the Homer City, Clymer and Cherry Tree police departments over the past 20 years.
Fyock celebrated his win with campaign workers and other party faithfuls at Josephine’s Pizzeria & Enoteca in Indiana.
Despite recent contention with the deputies in his office and the union that represents them, Fyock said county voters have endorsed the way he runs the sheriff’s department.
“They kept me here for what I’ve done the past 16 years. I get out in the community,” Fyock said. “I do what I tell people is going to be done. If there’s some kind of a problem it’s going to get worked out. And they can depend on it. It’s very humbling, the support that I’ve had.”
The sheriff said he greeted voters at about 20 polling places around the county Tuesday.
“People that I don’t even know were saying, ‘you’ve got my vote, Sheriff.’ I came out and said I wasn’t going to do anything negative and I didn’t.”
Sacco mounted a challenge that became more aggressive in the late weeks of the campaign. He questioned the scheduling of deputies, pointed to their successful challenge against an anti-moonlighting policy and charged that the sheriff’s office doesn’t enjoy good relations with other law enforcement agencies in the county. Sacco’s campaign advertisements featured endorsements by former deputies who worked for Fyock.
Worn from the campaign, Sacco commiserated with fellow Democrats at Spaghetti Benders Restaurant in Indiana after the polls closed and the 10 p.m. release of the final count from county elections officials.
“It’s been a lot of hard work. Exhausting,” Sacco said. “One of the toughest things I’ve done in my entire life. I’d call it the second toughest. The first was doing CPR on my dad when he died, when I was 16 years old. That was the toughest. This was right up there.”
Sacco said the numbers were stacked against him from the outset.
“When I first started this, I knew I was at a disadvantage to begin with. The Republicans outnumber my party, the Democrats, in this county. Plus I’m running against an incumbent. That’s two strikes right there,” Sacco said.
“I’m a firm believer that no candidate should ever have to run unopposed. It keeps the candidate honest. If you look at the numbers, I did take some Republican votes. I had some Republican support.
“I think that it was high turnout, but when you get a 2-to-1 Republican-to-Democrat (ratio) … the numbers don’t lie and that makes it that much more difficult.”
He said he hadn’t yet talked to Fyock after the race was decided.
Fyock, meanwhile, looked to his ongoing work as sheriff.
“We’re going to tighten the place up some more. We’re taking on more responsibilities and … everything we’re doing is security issues.
“We have one of the best security systems in the state of Pennsylvania. I’ve had other sheriffs come and say ‘hey, how did you do this?’ Well, with the help of the commissioners and the courts and the judges, I’ve been working on these things.
“It’s for everybody’s own safety and welfare. I tell people when they come off the street (to enter the court house), they’re safer now than when they came through that door. A LOT safer.”
Fyock said his office has been responsive to safety needs that mainly have increased — with the exception of the impending consolidation of separate security checkpoints for Domestic Relations Section and Children & Youth Services, when DRS moves into the CYS building along Indian Springs Road.
“Exactly, that will save me one deputy …,” Fyock said. “The sheriff’s office has changed little by little over the years. The first year I was in office was the year the third judge was elected. We never had that before. Then we took on Domestic Relations, then we took on Children and Youth Services. Now we’re taking on the district judge offices. Their offices have been getting more concerned.”
Despite the examination of the sheriff’s department raised in the campaign, Sacco defended his approach and said he doesn’t envision the office making the improvements he promised he would deliver.
“I personally don’t see things changing. I still foresee the cooperation among agencies still damaged. They were damaged and I see them continue to be damaged in the future,” Sacco said.
“I think I ran a clean campaign. I stuck to the issues. I have to thank my law enforcement peers in this county. They were truly behind me. And to be honest, I feel like I’ve let them down.”
He didn’t rule out another try in 2023.
“Talk to me in four years,” he said. “I’m young. This is my first bout of politics. So there’s that possibility.”
Fyock had only thanks for his supporters.
“I just can’t express my gratitude and utmost respect for everyone who voted for me. I’m very humbled for the opportunity that they’ve put me back in for another four years.”