LINDEN — Adam Kuczynski defeated former Councilman Richard Puschel after the Cornell Drive resident had just one term representing Linden’s Tenth Ward, but the vanquished politician is circulating petitions to run for Union County Sheriff in the June Democratic primary election.
A lieutenant with the Union County Police Department who heads the bomb squad and fire investigation unit, Puschel is in charge of heavy truck enforcement in addition to fatal crash investigations in 20 of the county’s 21 municipalities.
Puschel said he would replace two of three undersheriffs appointed by the incumbent, Sheriff Ralph Froehlich, who has held the position since 1978.
Puschel said Froehlich has “done a fantastic job” but claims “morale has been going down in the sheriff’s department” which has become infested with political influences.
Puschel suggested he might keep Undersheriff Vincent N. DeTrolio on the job, but said he would fire Assemblyman Joseph Cryan and Gerald Green, Jr., the son of Assemblyman Gerald Green, Sr., to make room for his own loyalists.
“It’s really a political position and you don’t want to put politics in law enforcement,” said Puschel. “I won’t keep them. I would put my own people in there and I’ve been talking to people just to put in that position.”
Froehlich, currently in his 12th term, is the longest-serving county sheriff in New Jersey history but he nearly lost the primary three years ago when a challenger took issue with his 1999 retirement.
“Ralph’s been in there a long time, he’s done a fantastic job over the years but it’s time for new blood,” said Puschel. “I wanted to do this for years. I figure I been in law enforcement for 31 years and this is the time.”
Puschel says he intends to collect a sufficient number of signatures to qualify for ballot access before he makes strategic plans about his campaign.
Asked if his candidacy would bring about retaliation from his superiors in the Union County Police Department, Puschel said, “I work with explosives, political flack is not going to scare me.”