AN OFFICIAL VETERAN from the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department said the correctional agency could do better and promised it was ready to lead the way. Sandy Zamor Calixte, who served as head of external affairs and communications under Sheriff Steve Tompkins, announced Wednesday morning that she plans to challenge him in the Democratic primary in September.
“For the past two decades, I’ve done the behind-the-scenes work to make the department more fair, transparent and community-focused,” Zamor Calixte said in his announcement outside the Mildred Avenue Community Center in Mattapan. “But after working the system behind the scenes and advocating behind the scenes, it’s clear to me that the only way to implement the change we need for the community and the employees of the Suffolk County Sheriff’s Department is a new leadership. I am this new leadership.
Zamor Calixte, a 48-year-old Mattapan resident, said she resigned her post yesterday and told Tompkins that she intends to run for office.
“I have immense respect for the current sheriff,” she said in her opening speech. “But it’s not just one person. It’s about changing a system to give people the services they need to get a second chance, because too many people in our community have never had a first chance.
For too long, she said, community residents, especially blacks and Latinos, have been denied “the education, opportunities and resources they deserve” and “because of policies. government, they end up in the correctional system ”. Once there, she said, they are too often denied the opportunities necessary “to successfully reintegrate into our community.” Zamor Calixte said there are programs in the sheriff’s department aimed at reducing recidivism, but she said they needed to be expanded and strengthened.
The daughter of Haitian immigrants, Zamor Calixte started in the sheriff’s department in 2006 as the coordinator of community outreach and youth programs. She holds a BA in Psychology and an MA in Criminal Justice, both from Northeastern University.
Former state representative Marie St. Fleur, who was among a dozen supporters of Zamor Calixte’s announcement, said she brings in-depth knowledge of the pros and cons of the correctional system. “She has a passion for trying to figure out how to do it better and differently. I think that’s what we’re aiming for right now, ”said St. Fleur.
Asked about Zamor Callistus’ challenge, Tompkins said he “didn’t see it coming” but said “this is what democracy is all about.” He said he plans to get re-elected this fall and has bragged about his record in shifting the department from a punitive approach to corrections to one that focuses on rehabilitation.
Tompkins held the same post in external affairs under former Sheriff Andrea Cabral that Zamor Calixte had under his administration. He was appointed sheriff in 2013 by the then governor. Deval Patrick when he called on Cabral to become his public safety secretary. Tompkins was then elected in 2014 to serve the remainder of Cabral’s term, and was re-elected in 2016 for a full six-year term.
He easily beat two Democratic primary challengers in 2014 and an unregistered general election candidate, and beat a primary challenger in 2016.