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Longtime Niagara County chief deputy leaves with a heavy heart

LOCKPORT – Thomas C. Beatty had been on the job with the Niagara County Sheriff’s department for the past 37 years, and as administrative chief deputy, he had always been the department’s go-to guy.

On the last Friday in June, he cleaned out his desk and began his retirement. But a few days before he left, Beatty spoke to The Buffalo News. He admitted it would be hard to leave and said he plans to remain in touch.

“It was certainly a great experience. I have no regrets,” he said of his nearly four decade on the job.

“It’s been my life for 37 years,” said Beatty, 58.

“I’m going to miss it. I love coming to work every day. I’ve got a great boss and co-workers.”

Sheriff James R. Voutour said the feeling is mutual.

“He will never be replaced. We will put someone else in there that will be good, but you are not going to get another Tom Beatty,” said Voutour.

Administrative Capt. Michael P. Dunn, who will step into Beatty’s position, agreed.

“He has contributed so much to the success of the sheriff’s office,” Dunn said of Beatty, “and I can only hope that I can continue to move the department forward.”

“I’ve been very, very fortunate,” said Beatty. “I’ve worked for four sheriffs, promoted from deputy sheriff to sergeant to captain to chief deputy. I’m not going to say I know everybody’s job, but I feel I have a good handle on pretty much what goes on everywhere in the department.”

Beatty’s job as administrative chief deputy involved working on several grant programs and serving as a liaison to the county legislature. He said he had been thinking about retiring for about a year, but wasn’t ready to leave until some projects were completed – including the county’s emergency radio project, the storage facility at the sheriff’s department and capital and improvement projects in the jail complex.

Beatty has been credited with an initiative he brought to the county legislators to save money by fighting welfare fraud, which yielded hundreds of thousands of dollars in savings. He also obtained at no cost to taxpayers a $360,000 state-of-the-art mobile command post.

“The work that Tom does is very important for the entire county,” said County Legislator David E. Godfrey, R-Wilson, who spoke to The News last year after Beatty was honored with Carl F. Draxler Award, the state’s top award for career achievement.

“The money that Tom brings in in grants is probably in excess of $10 million and that’s a tremendous effort and savings to the taxpayer,” said Godfrey, who is the community and security liaison.

Beatty has been the department’s representative for the Employee Assistance Program since the 1980s, working directly with a counselor from Catch a Falling Star, which aids troubled police officers who face financial and emotional problems.

“Tom is always our contact person. It is very confidential. Even I know nothing,” Voutour said of Beatty’s role with fellow officers. “He’s gone out at all hours of the night when deputies or corrections officers are in crisis. And some were dangerous situations. He’s probably saved a couple of lives here.”

Last year, Voutour nominated Beatty for the Draxler award, the highly competitive New York State honor for outstanding dedication, and Beatty was chosen from nominees from 50 other sheriff’s departments from across the state.

Beatty also received the Niagara County Sheriff’s Distinguished Service Award for outstanding service and dedication, and the department’s Craig C. Harmon Award for commitment to excellence to duty, family, community and co–workers. He was also the first recipient of the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services John Kimball O’Neill Certificate of Achievement for dedication and professionalism displayed in managing complex program files for successful reaccreditation.

Asked what he is most proud of, Beatty noted the 15 years he spent as co-director of the law enforcement academy.

“I’ve seen a lot of good officers go through the academy and do real well for themselves, including a couple of police chiefs and other administrators,” said Beatty.

Beatty said he knew in high school he wanted to work in law enforcement.

“I don’t know why. I don’t have family members who are in law enforcement. I just knew that was what I wanted to do,” said Beatty.

He started with the sheriff’s department in 1975 as a cadet, an unpaid position.

“A cadet was a volunteer program where you worked in the different divisions. It was a way to find out if you wanted to be a deputy sheriff and for the sheriff’s office to find out how you would do. This was pre-Civil Service. There was no testing,” said Beatty. He was 18 at the time.

In 1986, he was promoted to captain and in 2009, he was named chief deputy, the third highest position in the department.

Voutour noted that Beatty, who was a captain in 1993, recruited him to leave the Jamestown Police Department and return to Niagara County.

“Then I had the opportunity, when I became sheriff, to appoint the person who recruited me to chief deputy. It was kind of nice how that worked in 20 years,” said Voutour.

He said Beatty is someone he has always counted on for his experience as well as the person who will tell him what he needs to hear – not just what he wants to hear.

“There are times he comes in my office and shuts the door and gives me a different point of view. I never wanted a yes man in that position. I wanted someone who would give me their school of thought,” said Voutour. “I’d have to say every time I’ve shut the door and talked to him – he’s been right.”

Beatty said in his retirement he and his wife, Heidi, will take some time to get out on their boat on Lake Ontario.

But he won’t be too far away from the sheriff’s department. Beatty will remain a member of the 911 Advisory Board, which was created last year and has members from of all the agencies the sheriff department’s 911 Center serves.

“Ask any police officer who’s had five or six years on the job and they will tell you, Tom’s affected them in some shape or form,” said Voutour.