CAPE MAY COUNTY — Bob Nolan is counting on 33 years of experience in the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office as one of the main reasons voters should consider him for office in this year’s sheriff’s election.
“I’ve served in every area of the department during my time with Sheriff’s Office,” Nolan said in an interview with The Gazette last week. “I’ve been a sheriff’s officer since 1987.”
Nolan joined the office in 1984 as a corrections officer at the county jail. Three years later, he joined the ranks of sheriff’s officers after graduating from the police academy, he said. He is currently the undersheriff, appointed to the position by Sheriff Gary Schaffer in November 2010. Schaffer announced that he will retire at the end of the year.
Nolan has the support of the Cape May County GOP, said Chairman Marc Karavan.
“He went through the convention and he won the convention,” Karavan said.
Nolan also served a four-year stint as mayor in Lower Township, from 2005 to 2008, and is the president of Fire District 2 in Lower Township, a position Nolan would have to give up if he wins the election.
Though he could no longer hold the presidency, Nolan said he would remain active with the fire district.
“I love Cape May County,” Nolan said. “I raised children here, and I’m raising grandchildren here. I want to keep protecting Cape May County and keep it safe.”
Nolan said that on the campaign trail, the most common question he gets is, “What does the sheriff’s office do?” Nolan wants to change that, and said that community outreach and education should be an important part of the office.
“Our primary function is court security,” Nolan said. “And we’re one of only seven counties in New Jersey that runs their own jail.”
Also falling under the purview of the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office is the civil division, which enforces orders passed down from municipal and county courts, and the county animal shelter.
Nolan said that if elected, he doesn’t plan any major changes in the office, either in personnel or in duties.
“Other than the undersheriff,” he said. “If I’m elected, I’ll promote a new undersheriff from within the department.”
That’s important, Nolan said, especially with the expected completion of the new jail in the spring 2018.
“We need to be consistent with people, since we’re going into that new jail.”
Yet the office is currently understaffed, with seven officers out on either medical leave, or military duty, he said. That has stretched the department, and Nolan said he would have to be creative with the staff on hand to meet any new commitments.
One of those commitments would be working closer with local police and the prosecutor’s office.
“I’d like to put one of the officers in the prosecutor’s office to work with the Guns, Gangs and Narcotics Task Force,” Nolan said. “I also want our guys on the street to work with municipal police officers. We want to be more accommodating to local police, and work with them to see how we can help them to do their job better.”
Working with other law enforcement would have multiple benefits, Nolan said. It would bring the officers together in a common goal of keeping the county safe, and it would also extend the reach of the municipal police forces.
“The sheriff’s office is not limited by township boundaries,” he said. That means that if an investigation crosses municipal borders, sheriff’s officers working with police could cross those boundaries to pursue leads or suspects.
“I want to tweak some of the procedures at the jail,” Nolan added.
The current practice of closing the in-take section of the jail at lunch and dinner means that police can’t drop off prisoners 24 hours a day, he said.
“Currently, police now have to wait to drop off prisoners. I would like to move some shifts around and keep the in-take open.”
That would get municipal police back on the streets quicker, he said.
Nolan, 59, married his high school sweetheart, Michelle (Ciampi) Nolan, in 1978 at St. Ann’s in Wilwood.
“I want people to know that if I’m elected, I can hit the ground running from day one,” Nolan said. “There’s no on the job training with me. I’m fully experienced, fully qualified and educated, and ready to take over as sheriff.”