Newly elected Anthony Cureton only had 44 days to run for Bergen County sheriff after disgraced former Sheriff Michael Saudino resigned in September. In a recent interview with the AmNews, Cureton said he wants to focus on more discussions with the community.
Cureton made history last week when he was inaugurated the first African-American elected sheriff in Bergen County. Saudino resigned as sheriff after a recording of him making racist and homophobic statements was made public. Bergen County is 71 percent white and nearly 6 percent Black.
Before running, Cureton was the president of the Bergen County NAACP and called for Saudino’s resignation. Cureton knew Saudino well while working in the sheriff’s office as a public information officer and director of Social Services and Education.
“The New Jersey NAACP state president made me aware of what he said and I was hurt,” said Cureton. “[Saudino] told me he said it and I asked him to resign.”
Cureton said he was approached by the Democratic Party to run to replace Saudino. Among registered voters in Bergen County 30.9 percent are Democrats, 20 percent are Republicans and nearly 50 percent are registered as unaffiliated.
“When the former sheriff made those statements, Bergen County was being painted as a community that’s not racially conscious,” Cureton said. “The residents said, ‘This is not us.’ That’s why the voting block came back so strong. Some towns I didn’t think I had a shot at I won.”
Cureton credits his win with an enormous amount of outreach in just six weeks. He’s just about one week into his three-year term and said he wants to improve police/community relations. With nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience, Cureton realizes there’s work to be done.
“We want [to] show the sheriff’s office as community oriented,” he said. “Coming from law enforcement and having to challenge law enforcement at some point and maintain a civil relationship across the table, I know there is more room for discussion.”
During his first few days in office, Cureton has attended meetings in various communities including African-American, Muslim, Jewish and Asian. He said that he also wants to tackle Bergen County’s growing opioid crisis.