FALL RIVER (WBSM) — Former Attleboro Mayor and State Rep. Paul Heroux took the oath of office for Bristol County Sheriff Tuesday night at the B.M.C. Durfee High School in Fall River in front of a crowd of elected officials and supporters.

Heroux, a Democrat, defeated incumbent Republican Thomas M. Hodgson in the November election and became the first Democrat to become sheriff in the county in 25 years.

Despite a campaign filled with bitter rhetoric and accusations of their records, Heroux thanked Hodgson for his years of service and for providing a smooth transition from one administration to the next.

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“I’d like to thank Sheriff Hodgson for his 25 years of service in this role,” Heroux said. “For being a professional and gentleman during this transition, and for personally giving me a tour of the jail before my arrival tomorrow.”

In his inaugural speech, Heroux told supporters and elected officials he has heard concerns about rising recidivism and suicide rates throughout the county. He said he would seek outside help to address these concerns, but also acknowledged it would take time to see a drastic change in the rates.

"The people of this country want to see some changes in the sheriff’s office. I ask that you be patient when waiting for that change,” Heroux told supporters. “I have heard the concerns. I have recorded everything. Now I am going to address those concerns. I take things seriously, but I do not overreact. I am going to act on things that can be proven. I am going to be fair.”

During the ceremony, Heroux announced two new initiatives he would seek during his term in office. The first is the creation of a position for a director of inmate services.

Adam Bass/Townsquare Media
Adam Bass/Townsquare Media

The role would see an individual reporting to the sheriff on matters such as medical concerns, food, education, rehabilitation programs and discharge planning. This position would also oversee these matters, Heroux said.

The second announcement is the creation of a program to recruit homeless veterans to work for the Bristol County Corrections Office. Heroux said he would meet with local organizations and elected officials to help find housing and healthcare for veterans as part of the program.

Rep. Antonio Cabral (D-New Bedford), who attended the inauguration, said he thought the plan was a great idea and was happy to meet and work alongside Heroux in creating the program.

“First we have to meet with him and see what kinds of programs he is thinking of,” Cabral said. “We will also look at resources that the state might need to bring in to assist the sheriff. We appropriate every single dollar that we spend.”

Heroux told WBSM that the first days of his term will be spent touring different facilities and meeting the staff. He said he would meet with senior staff on Wednesday and will bring in a former Department of Corrections superintendent on Thursday and Friday.

“They are going to be touring the facilities with me,” Heroux said. “So they can give me their thoughts on if they want to focus on this or focus on that and see what can be done.”

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