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Mattapan woman running for sheriff

Anna Lamb
Mattapan woman running for sheriff
Sandy Zamor Calixte announces her candidacy for Suffolk County sheriff. Anna Lamb photo

Sandy Zamor Calixte, a top aide in the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department, announced last Wednesday that she has officially resigned from her position to run against Sheriff Steven Tompkins for the top job.

Outside of the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan, the neighborhood where Zamor Calixte resides, the candidate touted her experience with the department as well as a vision for the future. The 48-year-old daughter of Haitian immigrants is a 16-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, having first been hired as the coordinator of community outreach and youth programming in 2006 before being promoted to the position of director of external affairs in 2013 and ultimately becoming the chief of external affairs and communications in 2014.

She holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Northeastern University, a bachelor of arts in psychology, and a graduate certificate in social justice from Harvard Extension School.

“I have done the work behind the scenes to make the department more equitable, transparent and community-centered,” Zamor Calixte said. “But after working within the system behind the scenes and advocating behind the scenes, it is clear to me the only way to implement the change that we need for the community and the employees at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department is new leadership. I am that new leadership.”

Zamor Calixte said that she has tremendous respect for Sheriff Tompkins but believes she can “change the department to better serve the community by improving programming and making services more accessible, increase transparency and accountability, and address the systemic barriers in our public safety system.” The Sheriff’s Department’s main duty is overseeing the Suffolk County House of Correction and the Nashua Street Jail –– an area where Zamor Calixte sees room for improvement.

Some of the issues she said will be included in her platform are programs to reduce recidivism, including ones that center housing and education, and to provide free phone calls for inmates.

Asked about specific shortcomings of the current sheriff’s leadership, Zamor Calixte told reporters “I really want to focus on my campaign and how I want to lead my campaign, and the difference in terms of just focusing and making sure it’s community-based, and I listen and hear the community. That’s what’s important to me.”

Tompkins, a member of the department since 2002, has served as sheriff for eight years. He was appointed by then-Governor Deval Patrick in 2013 and won an election in 2014 to assume the rest of predecessor Andrea Cabral’s time in office after she left for a position with the state. He went on to win reelection to a six-year term in 2016, beating challenger Alexander Rhalimi in the primary.

Tompkins has most recently made headlines for his hand in addressing the ongoing health crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard by accommodating a special trial court inside Suffolk County Jail. The move, coupled with his suggestion to transform the South Bay Detention Center into a rehabilitation center, was met with scrutiny from activists and public health experts who accused the sheriff of criminalizing addiction and homelessness.

Also this summer, Tompkins faced backlash for the handling of a slew of inmate deaths that occurred between July and September. Families of the incarcerated felt that their loved ones died under suspicious circumstances and that they were left without answers.

Previously, Tompkins made the notable move to end a longstanding contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) –– an action that was endorsed by the Massachusetts ACLU and other civil organizations.

Tompkins confirmed to GBH that he would be seeking reelection in 2022, saying, “Sandy has been a valued member of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department since 2006,” and, “I hate to lose her, but I welcome her to the battlefield. Let’s dance.”

Zamor Calixte was joined Wednesday morning by nearly a dozen family members and supporters for her announcement. Among those gathered was former Democratic state Rep. Marie St. Fleur –– the first Haitian American to hold public office in Massachusetts. If elected, Zamor Calixte would be the first person of Haitian descent to hold countywide office.

St. Fleur, who has also had a lengthy legal career, serving as assistant district attorney for Middlesex County and assistant attorney general for Massachusetts, characterized Zamor Calixte as “someone who understands the system, who’s willing to stand up and say something and take chances.”

She endorsed Zamor Calixte’s candidacy.

“In order for you to create change, you have to be willing to stand up, say what’s wrong with the system, say what’s right with the system, and be willing to take the chance and make the changes,” St. Fleur said. “Sandy is willing to do that.”

.Wednesday that she has officially resigned from her position to run against Sheriff Steven Tompkins for the top job.

Outside of the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan, the neighborhood where Zamor Calixte resides, the candidate touted her experience with the department as well as a vision for the future. The 48-year-old daughter of Haitian immigrants is a 16-year veteran of the Sheriff’s Department, having first been hired as the coordinator of community outreach and youth programming in 2006 before being promoted to the position of director of external affairs in 2013 and ultimately becoming the chief of external affairs and communications in 2014.

She holds a master’s degree in criminal justice from Northeastern University, a bachelor of arts in psychology, and a graduate certificate in social justice from Harvard Extension School.

“I have done the work behind the scenes to make the department more equitable, transparent and community-centered,” Zamor Calixte said. “But after working within the system behind the scenes and advocating behind the scenes, it is clear to me the only way to implement the change that we need for the community and the employees at the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department is new leadership. I am that new leadership.”

Zamor Calixte said that she has tremendous respect for Sheriff Tompkins but believes she can “change the department to better serve the community by improving programming and making services more accessible, increase transparency and accountability, and address the systemic barriers in our public safety system.” The Sheriff’s Department’s main duty is overseeing the Suffolk County House of Correction and the Nashua Street Jail—an area where Zamor Calixte sees room for improvement.

Some of the issues she said will be included in her platform are programs to reduce recidivism, including ones that center housing and education, and to provide free phone calls for inmates.

Asked about specific shortcomings of the current sheriff’s leadership, Zamor Calixte told reporters “I really want to focus on my campaign and how I want to lead my campaign, and the difference in terms of just focusing and making sure it’s community-based, and I listen and hear the community. That’s what’s important to me.”

Tompkins, a member of the department since 2002, has served as sheriff for eight years. He was appointed by then-Governor Deval Patrick in 2013 and won an election in 2014 to assume the rest of predecessor Andrea Cabral’s time in office after she left for a position with the state. He went on to win reelection to a six-year term in 2016, beating challenger Alexander Rhalimi in the primary.

Tompkins has most recently made headlines for his hand in addressing the ongoing health crisis at Massachusetts Avenue and Melnea Cass Boulevard by accommodating a special trial court inside Suffolk County Jail. The move, coupled with his suggestion to transform the South Bay Detention Center into a rehabilitation center, was met with scrutiny from activists and public health experts who accused the sheriff of criminalizing addiction and homelessness.

Also this summer, Tompkins faced backlash for the handling of a slew of inmate deaths that occurred between July and September. Families of the incarcerated felt that their loved ones died under suspicious circumstances and that they were left without answers.

Previously, Tompkins made the notable move to end a longstanding contract with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)—an action that was endorsed by the Massachusetts ACLU and other civil organizations.

Tompkins confirmed to GBH that he would be seeking reelection in 2022, saying, “Sandy has been a valued member of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department since 2006,” and, “I hate to lose her, but I welcome her to the battlefield. Let’s dance.”

Zamor Calixte was joined Wednesday morning by nearly a dozen family members and supporters for her announcement. Among those gathered was former Democratic state Rep. Marie St. Fleur—the first Haitian American to hold public office in Massachusetts. If elected, Zamor Calixte would be the first person of Haitian descent to hold countywide office.

St. Fleur, who has also had a lengthy legal career, serving as assistant district attorney for Middlesex County and assistant attorney general for Massachusetts, characterized Zamor Calixte as “someone who understands the system, who’s willing to stand up and say something and take chances.”

She endorsed Zamor Calixte’s candidacy.

“In order for you to create change, you have to be willing to stand up, say what’s wrong with the system, say what’s right with the system, and be willing to take the chance and make the changes,” St. Fleur said. “Sandy is willing to do that.”

Suffolk County Sheriff

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