St. Joseph County Sheriff Frank Canarecci will leave office early.
Canarecci will retire effective June 30th—some six months before his elected term in office expires.
“It’s been an honor, but right now I think it’s about time,” Canarecci said during an exclusive interview with NewsCenter 16. Canarecci said he would make his formal announcement on Friday.
The sheriff insists that he is in good health and that there is no scandal forcing his hand. At age 61, Canarecci simply feels that it is time to retire, even if that means leaving before his current term in office expires.
“We both have our health,” Canarecci said, (referring to he and his wife), “the kids are spread throughout all the time zones, we have them all the way from Medford, Oregon to Kansas to Colorado, so we want to spent a little time traveling, take a little time to smell the roses so to speak.”
With one eye on his last day in office, Canarecci today reflected on his first day on the job in the jail in 1973.
“I said what do I do? They said ‘you’re working third floor today.’ I said well, what do I do? They said ‘you go get on the elevator and you push three,’ and that was the extent of my training,” Canarecci said.
Canarecci is now nearing the end of his second elected term as sheriff. He previously won election to the St. Joseph County Council. Between law enforcement and government, his career now spans 37 years—which is officially—long enough.
“I see too many people running too long, whether its in athletics whether its in politics or what they just don't seem to know when its time, and after a lengthy discussion we decided now is the time,” Canarecci said.
It appears that the ‘mother of all editorials” may have helped cement Canarecci’s decision.
The Mother’s Day edition of the South Bend Tribune upset members of Canarecci’s family. The editorial concluded that police department training, staff, and morale all appeared “weak.”
“The last editorial Mark was the straw in the camel’s back,” Canarecci explained. “I think it almost became, it didn’t almost become, I saw it as a personal attack on this administration and after 37 years of a career, it was unwarranted in my opinion.”
Canarecci said history shows that his administration kept St. Joseph County safe over the past seven and a half years. “We’ve done a good job doing that and we’ve done that by first of all, increasing patrols, redistricting the patrol beats, keeping the school zones safe….”
Canarecci claims he has also worked hard to keep politics out of the department. “I can tell you right now with god as my witness that not once did I ever check political status before we hired them.”
Canarecci refuted any contention that the department was being run with a ‘good old boys’ mentality. “If you want to be sheriff you have to be involved in a political world, but you have to have the courage not to become a political puppet.”
Canarecci is now ready to cut the strings altogether. Effective June 30th, he’ll go from a full time law man, to a full time family man. “You know, I think after 37 years in government and law enforcement it’s been an honor but right now I think it’s about time.”
The St. Joseph County Democratic Party will hold a caucus of precinct committeemen to choose someone to fill the remainder of Canarecci’s term.
Canarecci says he will not endorse any candidates in the caucus election nor in the November election.
Canarecci says he has no plans to run for any other elected office. In addition to traveling, he plans to spend time collecting antiques and so some substitute teaching in the John Glenn School System.
As for his time as sheriff, Canarecci has no regrets: “I want to be known for a sheriff who has the courage to stand up for his officers when they’re right, and the courage to take care of the discipline when they’re wrong.”
Canarecci said when he took office there were 7,000 un-served warrants, as he leaves; the number has been cut to 4,300.
Canarecci is proud that there have been no jail escapes on his watch or any “major incidents” in the jail. Canarecci also says his administration sent more officers to the FBI training school than any past administration.