Jewell Williams elected Philly sheriff

Posted: November 09, 2011

Democratic state lawmaker Jewell Williams is the new sheriff in town.

With more than 70 percent of precincts reporting, Williams, a state representative from North Philadelphia, was leading his Republican opponent, Joshua R. West, by more than a 3-1 ratio. Green Party candidate Cheri Honkala was a distant third.

"We campaigned on transparency and open records. We are now going to work very hard to keep those promises," Williams said Tuesday night.

In other races, Ronald Donatucci will continue his 32-year career as register of wills. Donatucci was ahead of Republican challenger Linda Wolfe Bateman, a former inheritance-tax specialist for the state, by a ratio of just under 3-1.

Donatucci signed up for the city's deferred-retirement program (DROP) three years ago. With his reelection, he will be allowed to "retire" for a day, collect a DROP payment of about $368,000, then go back to work.

Donatucci has said that he intended to retire but changed his mind after his employees asked him to stay because they were concerned the office might be eliminated.

All three sheriff candidates vowed to bring change to an office that some Council members want to see abolished, especially after longtime Sheriff John Green announced his plans to retire under a cloud of criticism.

Williams had endorsements from organized labor, the city's Black Clergy group, and the Democratic City Committee. He said he would be leaving the legislature with about a year left in his term.

A former Temple University police officer and chief of criminal operations for the Sheriff's Office, Williams said he would bring in his own team, including an integrity officer. He also vowed to post all office transactions on an agency website with 48 hours. Green's administration has been excoriated for its poor record-keeping on the auction of foreclosed properties.

West, a paralegal and captain in the Army National Guard who has studied criminal justice, said he wanted to improve transparency for what happens to money collected at sheriff sales. He also called for bringing back the agency's warrant unit to arrest people who failed to make court appearances.

Honkala, an antipoverty activist, vowed to try to settle disputes between homeowners and creditors and to resist selling properties at sheriff sales.

City voters also approved the Democrats' slate of city judges, including 11 judges for the Court of Common Pleas, two uncontested judgeships on Municipal Court, and one for Traffic Court.

The Common Pleas Court winners were Sean Kennedy, Angelo J. Foglietta, Diana Anhalt, Maria McLaughlin, Charles Ehrlich, Jonathan Q. Irvine, Barbara A. McDermott, Vincent L. Johnson, Edward C. Wright, Carolyn H. Nichols, and Thomas M. Nocella. Marvin L. Williams and Joyce Eubanks ran unchallenged for Municipal Court. Christine Soloman defeated Republican Lewis Harris Jr.

Voters also approved new terms for 28 sitting city judges on Common Pleas, Municipal, and Traffic Courts.

Contact staff writer Rita Giordano at 856-779-3841,, or @ritagiordano on Twitter.

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