To the Editor:
I’ve worked at the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office for six years, and spent more than a decade before that in the newsroom at a daily newspaper. I’ve seen and read about elected officials coming and going, about elected officials making this proposal and that proposal, and about elected officials failing to live up to their promises.
Tom Hodgson is the exception to that statement.
He’s honest, kind and a true leader for the Sheriff’s Office, someone the staff and the community look to as he strives to make Bristol County a safer place to live, work and raise a family.
We’ve spent a lot of time together over the past six years. We’ve had countless conversations when the cameras aren’t rolling, when we’re just sitting at the lunch counter having a sandwich (or in his case, a kale smoothie and a hummus wrap). What he says in public is what he says in private; he never wavers and always has the well-being of the community on the top of his mind.
Now a lot of people in Bristol County and beyond have met the Sheriff or read about him in the newspaper or online. They’ve seen him at community events and chatted with him at a parade or fundraiser. But I’ve gotten to know Tom Hodgson more closely over the last six years. Here’s ten things I’ve learned about Tom Hodgson over the years:
His heart is split two ways, between his family and the people of Bristol County. Officials in the state and national GOP have urged him to run for Washington offices like the U.S. Senate and the House over the years, and he’s turned them down every time. As someone who started part-time nights and weekends at a newspaper after college and worked my way up over the years, I told him he was crazy for not wanting to pursue other opportunities. But every time I bring my daughter to softball, soccer or theater camp, I get it. There’s no make-ups and you’ll never get that family time back at the end of the day.
Good luck trying to buy him a meal. Every time we stop at Dunkin (his go-to is a hot macchiato with almond milk and two Stevia), he shoves his money toward the window to prevent me from picking up the tab. When we’re out to lunch or dinner, my move is to slip the wait staff my credit card on my way to the bathroom so the check never even gets to the table. He’s caught on, usually slipping his card to the staff as soon as I get up. It’s a constant battle, one I hope to be on the winning end of more in the years to come.
He’s by far the healthiest eater in the entire world. OK, maybe not the world, but you get the point. No carbs, no sweets, no beer. Cob salads, veggie hummus wraps, kale this and kale that, a glass of red wine. He’s got the energy of someone half his age, and it’s no surprise seeing the way he takes care of his body.
One of the biggest criticisms I read about him in the opinion section is that he’s too focused on illegal immigration and lobbying officials in Washington. He’s doing that to keep Bristol County safe! It’s no secret that the drug cartels in Mexico supply most of the dangerous heroin and fentanyl that’s killing people in Bristol County and across the nation. The DEA threat assessment report identifies these transnational gangs as having the largest drug trafficking influence in the United States. Any police chief or drug unit detective in any city or town will tell you the same thing: The drugs come from Mexico. That’s just a fact. Closing the border and halting illegal immigration will only prevent Bristol Coutny residents from overdosing and getting hooked on drugs. It’s all about Bristol County. I can’t stress that enough.
He always keeps the taxpayers of Bristol County at the top of his mind. He’s the only Sheriff in Massachusetts to implement a management accountability program, which in Bristol measures hundreds of operating indicators every day on every shift. How many meals are being made? How much overtime is there? If it snows, how many shovels are we using? We track all this data to find cost efficiencies so the taxpayers’ money is spent effectively. It’s no secret Bristol has the lowest, or is among the lowest, cost per inmate per year in the state, and it’s no surprise seeing the spreadsheets, graphs, pie charts and decisions that come from analyzing all this data.
He answers all the tough questions that come his way. I can’t remember the last time he or the office failed to answer questions from the media. He feels like it’s his responsibility and duty as the elected Sheriff of the county. Even when the far left media comes calling, he still takes the time to answer their questions and provide the information they request. When the Boston Globe columnists start reaching out about an obvious political hit piece, he feels it’s his responsibility to answer their inquiries.
He thinks big. Remember Project NICE, the initiative in which inmate volunteers from Bristol County would be dispatched across the country to help with major infrastructure projects, such as the border wall or the pipes in Flint, Michigan? Well, Beacon Hill killed that pretty quickly, but the idea is a solid one. It was a big idea, and frankly, corrections and law enforcement need more big ideas.
When it comes to inmates in the Bristol County jails, he’s all about rehabilitation over recreation. The BCSO offers so many programs, from vocational education to substance abuse to anger management and parenting help. I remember one time our staff was working on implementing a yoga program. Sheriff Hodgson didn’t approve it until mindfulness and wellness components were added, because if we’re going to devote county resources to a program, it should be about rehabilitation and not recreation.
He has assembled the best grants team in the state, hands down. Ana Arruda and her team are responsible for the grant programs that were awarded, including tracking results and data, and reporting back to the feds on their effectiveness. Securing these grants is far from easy, and most of them have us competing against others for a pool of funds. Yet our grants team comes through all the time. They have allowed us to purchase the tractor-trailer truck simulator that is training inmates for a job upon release, and they secured a huge grant to make our True Course youth outreach program even better than it already is with a new focus on the children of incarcerated individuals. This team is great, and the Sheriff’s guidance and focus in that department sets the table.
He has the patience of a saint, except for one instance. Corrections and law enforcement is a hard industry. Things can go wrong at any time, and in those situations, people can get hurt. We’ve had officers have to go to the emergency room because they were attacked by inmates or were exposed to fentanyl from people coming into the prison. We’ve had protestors disrupting first responder access to the jail. Through it all, he stays calm, cool and collected. But there’s one thing that makes his blood boil, and anyone who drives to Boston probably feels the same way. Boston traffic. If we go to the statehouse or a Mass Sheriff’s Association meeting in the northern part of the state and have to go through Boston, chances are we’ll hit traffic, and chances are he’ll wonder aloud why we did the Big Dig in the first place. I’m sure he’s not the only one wondering that when it takes 2.5 hours to get from Dartmouth to Boston. So a memo to Sheriff Hodgson’s opponents: His Achilles Heel is traffic. Hey, no one’s perfect. No one bats 1.000.
Sheriff Hodgson has turned the BCSO into a world-class operation. He keeps the taxpayers’ interests and the rehabilitation of inmates at the forefront while also doing everything he can to keep the community safe. It’s no surprise the Sheriff’s Office has achieved back-to-back perfect 100% scores on our last two national accreditation inspections from the American Corrections Association.
The public has a lot to be proud of when it comes to the Bristol County Sheriff’s Office. I guess if you’re the ultra-politics type who watches CNN and MSNBC all day and reads the Boston Globe Opinion section word for word (like most of the others I see writing letters in this space), you’re probably hell bent on “anything but Hodgson.” But for everyday people like me and the hundreds of thousands around Bristol County who just want to be safe and know their tax dollars aren’t being wasted, Tom Hodgson is the choice on election day.