Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Hamilton County’s Long-Standing Sheriff Retires

Hamilton County Sheriff Douglas A. Parker has announced his retirement, ending a history of Parkers serving as the county’s top cop that stretches back to 1964; just three men have filled the post since 1946. The Long Lake resident, now 67, has spent 40 years with the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Department. He was appointed to the position of Jailer by his father Arthur E. Parker in 1964 after a short stint about and anti-submarine aircraft carrier in the U.S. Navy, he was elected Sheriff on his father’s retirement in 1983.

Parker is being lauded by locals for his approach to rehabilitation of those that find their way into the county’s criminal justice system. “I’d describe Doug as one of those rare individuals that can project authority, that isn’t questioned, and still has the ability to listen and empathize, almost like a social worker,” Hamilton County Board of Supervisors Chair William Farber (who has known Parker all these 40 years) told the Schenectady Gazette. “He’s seriously going to be missed. We have a department that’s second to none in how they handle people,” Hamilton County Judge S. Peter Feldstein told the paper. “More young people get turned around because of their interactions with the department, and that’s all because of him.” Some 250 people showed up at the Oak Mountain Ski Center lodge in Speculator for Parker’s retirement party last week.

While serving as Jailer (and living above the jail with his wife), Douglas Parker was put in charge of serial killer Robert F. Garrow when he was held in county lock-up in Lake Pleasant (part of which was built in 1840) for nine months in 1973-1974. He immediately doubled the guard (to two), but still felt uneasy about his charge, calling the experience “a nightmare.” “We didn’t trust Garrow to take a shower. He took a bath in a kiddy pool.” he recently told the Gazette, “He was never out of his cell, but that there were two deputies with him.”

Douglas Parker’s father Arthur E. Parker was elected Long Lake Town Clerk in 1939, and then served 19 years as Long Lake Town Supervisor before being appointed by then New York State Governor Nelson Rockefeller when then sheriff Merritt Lamos died in office in 1964.

Hamilton County is the most rural and least populated county in the state, and also, at 1,700-square-miles, one of the largest. The county’s year-round population is about 5,400, which rises to an estimated 55,000 during the summer. The Sheriff’s department includes a staff of six including dispatchers.

The county is considered the most consistently Republican of the entire state. The Republican candidate has lost the county only once over the last 23 Presidential elections (Barry Goldwater). John McCain carried Hamilton County by 27% margin over Barack Obama – the highest margin of victory of McCain in the state.

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