The sheriff of Allegheny County is an elected office, but it would be wrong to think of Sheriff Bill Mullen, a Democrat, as a politician. While this county has had political sheriffs in the past, he is not one of them. First and last, he is a seasoned professional leading a professional law enforcement office.
Among its varied duties, the sheriff's office clears warrants and serves writs, makes arrests, transports prisoners, issues firearm permits and presides over sheriff's sales on foreclosed properties.
Sheriff Mullen, 66, of Banksville has 37 years of law enforcement experience. He rose through the ranks in the Pittsburgh police bureau, starting as a uniformed patrol officer and becoming a narcotics detective, a uniformed lieutenant, a detective lieutenant in charge of the rape, robbery and homicide squads, a zone commander, an assistant chief of operations and an assistant chief of investigations. He retired in 2006 as deputy chief, the No. 2 position on the force.
Then he joined the sheriff's department as chief deputy. If not for Sheriff Pete DeFazio being charged with criminal charges related to politicking in the office, Sheriff Mullen might not have gone further. As it was, he became acting sheriff in late 2006 and won election the following year.
Sheriff Mullen has done a fine job in office. He banned the political contributions that led his predecessor into trouble, and he kept within budgets, embraced the computer age and generally updated the deputies' equipment.
When the recession hit, he helped homeowners who were way behind on their mortgage payments with his Mortgage Conciliation Program, which provided a hotline for help. The number of sheriff's sales actually decreased -- from 4,727 in 2006 to 2,581 in 2012.
This enviable record should have drawn only a well-prepared opponent and indeed no Republican filed. A Constitution candidate, Mike Zitelli, 30, of Bridgeville offers a choice -- although not a credible one. Mr. Zitelli works as a warehouse loader and serves in the Air Force Reserve.
He has no law enforcement experience and would have a difficult time winning the respect of the department's 157 deputies and 34 civilians. He also holds some startling views. On sheriff's sales, for example, he would not allow the sale of houses if the Internal Revenue Service were involved; he considers the IRS the creation of international banks.
In this matchup, it's an easy choice. The Post-Gazette endorses Bill Mullen for another term as sheriff.