KITTANNING – “So far, so good.”
That’s how Armstrong County’s new sheriff, Frank Pitzer, summed up his first week on the job, a position for which he was elected in November.
Pitzer, who was no stranger to the sheriff’s department before he took the oath of office on Jan. 3, said that while he does want to make some changes in how his department operates, he also intends to carry on in much the same way as former sheriff William Rupert.
“We have a great staff here,” he said, especially pointing to the department’s chief deputy and secretary. “They go above and beyond every day.”
A native of the Westmoreland County community of Jeannette, Pitzer said much of his time growing up was spent in the Crooked Creek area of Armstrong County.
“When I had the opportunity to come here, I jumped at it,” he said, noting that his family operated a restaurant near Crooked Creek State Park.
His career plans changed, however, immediately following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
“That pretty much changed my plans,” he said. “I wanted to step up and do something for my community.”
Pitzer’s law enforcement career began by attending the police academy, followed with his first police job in Parks Township. He then started working part-time with the Ford City Police Department, which led to a full-time position.
He was then hired as a part-time county detective for the county’s narcotics enforcement team by former Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi, and in 2005, was hired full-time as a deputy in former Sheriff Larry Crawford’s department. Pitzer was promoted to captain under Rupert.
During his time with the county, Pitzer served as chief county detective and director of the narcotics unit.
In 2019, Pitzer said he left county employment to work for Paragon Systems, under the direction of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. He said he spent a year-and-a-half working in training for federal officers.
Last year, he said he decided to bring those years of experience back to the county by running for election as sheriff.
“We want to make Armstrong County as safe as we possibly can,” Pitzer said, noting that he wants the same thing for his children, who were born and raised here.
To that end, he said he intends to make some “tweaks” to the security at the courthouse and other county buildings, and to focus on the sheriff’s department equipment.
“We want to try to upgrade some of our equipment without being a burden on taxpayers,” he said.
Despite some problems with staffing shortages, Pitzer said he has a fine group of experienced deputies, along with several newer ones that he describes as “exceptional.”
Pitzer also said that he recognizes that some of the staffing issues are related to what the county is able to offer in terms of pay, a challenge that he and the county commissioners are faced with in many departments.
He said that he hopes to work with the commissioners for the benefit of the county.
“I have a lot of respect for our three commissioners,” he said.
As he moves forward in his second go-around with county government, Pitzer said he’s grateful to have had the support of the voters.
“I had a choice, and I wanted to be here,” he said.