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Baker taps former city councilor as Norfolk County sheriff

Jerry McDermott during a 2007 Boston City Council meeting.
Jerry McDermott during a 2007 Boston City Council meeting.(Globe Staff/File)

Governor Charlie Baker is tapping a former Boston councilor and aide to then-Senator Scott Brown to serve as Norfolk County sheriff, filling a role long held by a Democrat.

Jerry McDermott, a Westwood resident who currently serves as chief of staff in the state agency responsible for managing state buildings, will take over Dec. 24 and serve until 2020, when voters can make their pick in a special election to fill the final two years of former sheriff Michael G. Bellotti’s six-year term.

Baker announced McDermott’s appointment Monday. It wasn’t immediately clear whether McDermott, a one-time Democrat now registered as a Republican, intends to run for the seat when it comes up for election. The sheriff’s office, a taxpayer-funded agency, is tasked with overseeing the Norfolk County jail in Dedham.

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McDermott represented Allston and Brighton on the Boston City Council for six years before moving to Westwood and serving as executive director of the South Shore Habitat for Humanity. He later worked on Brown’s staff as state director before joining Eversource, where he worked in community relations and economic development.

He joined the Baker administration in March in its Division of Capital Asset Management and Maintenance.

McDermott, who is also a licensed realtor, was a registered Democrat while he served on the city council, but he unenrolled from the party in 2010, according to the Westwood town clerk’s office. He registered as a Republican in 2013.

He will take over the office from special sheriff Robert Harnais, who’s overseen the day-to-day operations of the county agency since Bellotti resigned in October to become the interim president of Quincy College.

Bellotti, a Democrat, has held the seat since 1999 after he defeated Jack Flood, a one-time Democrat who was appointed to the seat and ran as a Republican.

Last month, outgoing state Republican Party chair Kirsten Hughes signed a $75,000 contract to serve as “special legal counsel” to the office. She has said she’s not interested in running for the office’s top spot in 2020.

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In appointing McDermott, Baker pointed to his work in Boston, specifically his time as co-chair of the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force.

“Jerry has focused on building partnerships with local and state agencies as a Boston City Councilor and successfully co-founded the Allston-Brighton Substance Abuse Task Force leading initiatives to combat drug and alcohol abuse,” Baker said in a statement. “I am confident that he will serve the people of Norfolk County with integrity.”


Reach Matt Stout matt.stout@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mattpstout