Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

College Teacher Wants to Be Sheriff

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

College Teacher Wants to Be Sheriff

Article excerpt

A former NYPD cop turned college professor has entered the race for Passaic County sheriff and is seeking the Republican nomination in a bid to challenge incumbent Democrat Richard H. Berdnik.

Steve Arienta, 37, of Wanaque has set up a website, launched a Twitter account, and held some small fundraisers -- the first steps toward gaining the endorsement of the Passaic County Regular Republican Organization when it meets on Feb. 20 to select candidates for the June primary. Berdnik is running for a third term and is seeking the nod from the Passaic County Democratic Committee.

Arienta is running for public office for the first time and acknowledges that he lacks name recognition. During the past month, he has mounted an aggressive campaign on Twitter criticizing Berdnik, and he has already met with GOP Chairman John Traier.

Arienta said he worked in narcotics and organized crime units for the NYPD, and retired early after 10 years to go into teaching. He teaches a variety of criminal justice courses at Westchester Community College, which is part of the State University of New York.

"I'm a unique candidate," said Arienta. "I've been a police officer and an educator, and with that experience I believe I can run the Sheriff's Department more efficiently," he said.

Traier said he met with Arienta several weeks ago and came away impressed. "He's got the law enforcement background and that academic background. I think he's definitely qualified to be sheriff."

But Arienta could face a challenge for the GOP nomination from Frank Feenan, who lost to Berdnik three years ago and is mulling another run.

"I'm leaning heavily toward running but I still haven't made up my mind," said Feenan, who retired as a detective captain with the Passaic County Prosecutor's Office.

Always hotly contested in Passaic County, the sheriff's race this year will share the political spotlight with the presidential contest, as well as with races for Congress. …

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