Sheppard Announces Mayoral Decision: “I Will Run. Together, We Can Get Rochester Working Again!”

Rochester, New York, 14 January 2017: This morning, surrounded by family, a room full of supporters, and dozens of volunteers in Sheppard for Mayor T-shirts, former Monroe County Legislator and Rochester Police Chief James Sheppard announced his campaign for Mayor of Rochester.

In a long anticipated event at the Workers United Union Hall on East Avenue, Mr. Sheppard reminded a cheering crowd, “We need to get Rochester working again, because our current City government is just not working.”

Rev. Douglas A. Smith of Grace Community Church served as emcee for the event and introduced several speakers representing a diverse cross section of Rochester, from ministers to teachers, union and business leaders, to community activists.

Gary Bonadonna Jr. addresses the crowd
Gary Bonadonna Jr. addresses the crowd

Gary Bonadonna, Manager of the Workers United Joint Board, welcomed the overflowing crowd and reminded everyone that Sheppard announced his 2015 run for Monroe County Legislature in the hall and went on to a smashing victory in that election. “Our Union has a long history of supporting candidates for public office who stand up for working families,” he said. “Today we’re proud to stand with James Sheppard as he begins his campaign for Mayor of the City of Rochester.”

Beatriz LeBron, a Community Health Worker and Democratic Leader of the 25th Legislative District in the City’s Southwest side, kicked off the list of speakers by lauding Sheppard for his community leadership. “Today, I want to speak to James Sheppard’s accessibility, collaboration and his willingness to work with the community in a “hands-on” manner,” she said. She went on to call out specific community partnerships with Sheppard at Alternatives for Battered Women and Community Place during his tenure with the Rochester Police Department.

Pastor Sammie Drayton, of Hope Divine Church of God on Maple Street spoke next about his personal relationship with Sheppard. “James Sheppard has commitment, integrity and passion for this City,” he said. “I have seen those attributes in him where it is the most important to display them – in the community and with the people.”

Vic Saunders, former Director of Pathways to Peace lauded Sheppard for his commitment to his community. I know the difference between talking the talk and walking the walk,” he said. “When I first met James Sheppard it didn’t take long to realize he wasn’t a cop because it was a job. He was in it because he cared. His concern for young people came right on through.”

Laura Delehenty, Teacher at East High School, reminded the crowd of Sheppard’s work with young people at events like the school’s “Cops, Cookies and Conversation” event. We are in a time of great tension between police and the community,” she said. “Chief Sheppard knows the importance of building bridges between different groups of people, and that bridges are built through talking, listening and understanding.”

Christian Lopez, who Sheppard mentored when he was a student at Monroe High School, spoke to Sheppard’s abilty to work with young people. “Every day I recite an affirmation from what he taught me: ‘Give honest and sincere appreciation,” he said. I give that to my mom – who sacrifices everything for us. And I also give that to Mr. Sheppard for giving me the tools to be successful in life. Thank you Mr. Sheppard – and let’s all not miss the opportunity to support a truly great leader!”

Aaron Hilger, President and CEO of the Rochester Builders Exchange spoke on behalf of his 600 member businesses and the 20,000 workers they represent. He told the crowd of his experience in meeting Sheppard. In our first two meetings he didn’t say much,” said Hilger. “He listened to what I had to say, and asked intelligent questions.  That’s different from a lot of politicians I know. But then, Shep is not your average politician. The meetings were not about him, or about his wants or desires.  Rather they were about learning.  Learning about construction.  Learning about how we invest and train the next generation.”

 Community activist James McCauley reminded people of Sheppard’s work to get the TIPS program (Trust, Information, Programs and Services) off the ground at its inception. In the middle of it all was James Sheppard,” he told the crowd. “He was giving away free book bags, filled with school supplies. He was with the people – with the children – with the community and talking about the sanctity of life – and about accountability, responsibility and civic duties. He wasn’t a cop that day, he was a friend and role model.”

The Reverend Marlowe Washington, Pastor of the Historic Parsells Church, introduced Sheppard to a tumult of applause and anticipation. His introduction focused on “What Rochester needs!” and the disappointment the community feels over the current City Administration. “We were told to “believe” in a dream that went deferred,” he said. “We were told to believe that our neighborhoods would be rebuilt.  We were told to believe that city residents would participate in the democratic process and that streets would be cleaned up, jobs would be introduced, and businesses would be coming to our city.  Three and a half years later, the dream to believe has been deferred.”

Sheppard’s announcement theme was clear, especially in light of the growing trend of Rochester’s residents who are looking for change. “With your help, I know we can lead this community to greater things,” he said. And he emphasized the need to work together. “It’s not about me, it’s about us. Together, we can do better. We will make Rochester a place of opportunity, of growth, and of hope, for all our citizens. Together we can restore Rochester’s promise.”

James Sheppard will seek the designation of the Monroe County Democratic Committee in the coming months and feels confident of his chances to become Rochester’s next Mayor. “Our city deserves a leader who has one mission: to restore Rochester’s promise,” he said.  “We need to get Rochester working again—and that’s why I’m announcing my candidacy for Mayor of the City of Rochester.”