Ordway says ‘No second term for me’

Mary Perham
Joel Ordway

Steuben County Sheriff Joel Ordway said Tuesday he will not seek a second term in office and will step down at the end of the year.

“I know people will say, ‘He’s a one-termer, four years,’” Ordway said. “But I’d rather have people look at the 28.5 years I’ve been there. That’s what I’m looking at.”

Ordway said he decided several months ago not to seek reelection after discussing the matter with his family. The decision was based on a number of factors, including job-related stress, he said.

“It’s a lot,” Ordway said. “It’s the economic climate, the political climate. It is very stressful. The public wants a response right now, and on the other side, you’re pulled by legislators to save money. I am not saying the legislators are wrong, nor are the citizens’ demand for protection wrong.”

There also have been a few problems in the department recently.

On Jan. 17, an alleged murderer was charged with second-degree assault after reportedly injuring an unidentified corrections officer at the jail. A second corrections officer is facing a mid-February hearing on harassment allegations.

“Problems with employees definitely add to the problem,” Ordway said.

Stepping down at the age of 50 also allows Ordway to pursue another career, he said.

“I can say there are offers out there,” he said.

Ordway’s announcement came as a shock to recently retired county District Attorney John Tunney.

As county D.A. For 24 years, Tunney worked closely with Ordway, who will step down after 28 years with the sheriff’s office.

“I’m just surprised,” Tunney said. “I think it’s too bad, he’s a relatively young man and he had the opportunity to provide some stability long-term, which is important in law enforcement. We had a terrific working relationship, and on a personal level I’m sorry to see him to go. For all of his career, this seemed to be something he worked forward to.”

Ordway was the county’s chief deputy in 2008 when he decided to run for sheriff. The campaign sparked one of the most negative local campaigns in recent memory.

The race between Ordway, then-Undersheriff David Cole, of Wayland, and former Maryland state Trooper Jim Waight, of Bath, was fueled by rumors and attacks by supporters of all three candidates.

After Ordway won the Republican primary, Cole named Waight as his potential undersheriff, and ran on the Independence and Conservative party lines. Cole lost the election and then unsuccessfully challenged the November general election results, which gave Ordway a 20,070-13,066 victory.

“It was negative,” Ordway said. “But I think that was more some of our followers. I don’t think any of us were negative.”

Ordway said his term allowed him to launch initiatives, such as a cost-saving health program to help diabetic inmates reduce their insulin dependency. Another program, which allows residents to dispose of their prescription medications in a central location, has been adopted nationally, he said.

During his term, Ordway’s department won two awards for innovation, and the state Sheriff’s Association appointed him to its executive board.

“We’ve returned the sheriff’s office back to the people of the county,” County Undersheriff Ray Dell said. “He steered us back to being the law enforcement arm for the citizens of the county.”

Dell said he intends to run for sheriff and expects to make a formal announcement soon.

Cole may throw his hat into the ring as well, telling The Evening Tribune Tuesday he was thinking about another run for the office. Cole’s candidacy also would be supported by Waight, who told the Tribune he would be glad to run as Cole’s undersheriff.

County District Attorney Brooks Baker said Ordway’s decision means Steuben will lose a dedicated law officer at the end of the year.

“He has done an exceptional job. I was really looking forward to working with him,” Baker said. “He has certainly served his community and this county very well.”