Following the recent announcement of Livingston County Sheriff John York’s retirement after six terms in office, the race to elect the new county sheriff has begun. Candidates Undersheriff Jim Szczesniak and criminal investigator Tom Dougherty ‘04 are both currently seeking the Livingston County Republican Party endorsement in preparation for the Republican primaries in May.
Dougherty has served in the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office for the past eight years, working his way up to his current title as an investigator for the Criminal Investigations Division. He said, however, that his private sector work at a transportation company is integral to his credibility because it taught him “the value of a dollar.”
Szczesniak has served in the Livingston County Sheriff’s Office for the past 28 years and currently holds the rank of undersheriff, a position he said has allowed him to see the “big picture.”
“I have the ability to work my feet to the ground in many of the positions, and see how they coordinate together,” Szczesniak said.
Although it is still early in the race, Dougherty said that this election will prove to be very important.
“Typically younger voters aren’t interested in a sheriff’s race. There’s not that much out there about it. But it’s a huge election, and important not only to the people of Livingston County but right here on the campus,” Doughtery said.
Szczesniak has York’s endorsement, and though he said that he hopes this shows that they share the same values, he clarified that they will be two different people. “As we move forward we always have to be prepared for the next generation, and make sure we’re going to serve them properly,” he said.
Both candidates have campaigns focused on safety, fiscal responsibility and technological improvements. Dougherty said he wants to expand the “closest car concept” in Livingston County, which means the closest patrol car to a call, whether it is state or regional, is the one to respond. He said he believes this would have positive implications both in safety and finances.
Szczesniak said he would like to expand the use of the closest car concept as well, and is also calling for an improvement to Livingston County’s 911 center, which he said needs to be updated to better facilitate text messages.
Dougherty initiated the Livingston County Sheriff Department’s Facebook page, and said he sees social media as a driving force in improving the department’s communication with the community.
“That was when we were able to put up warrants and such, and really get information out to the community that was lacking there before. Now a sheriff’s department can really interact, and hear what the people in the community think is important,” Dougherty said.
Dougherty said that his main priority is “positive change.”
“I’ve said from the start that if you’re doing it for the right reasons then it’s the right thing to do, and you can’t lose. And obviously in an election you just never know. But as a person you’re trying to better the department and make it better for the community,” Dougherty said.
“I think the biggest concern is good service to the people, [to] make sure we’re making a good impression,” he said. “It’s the student population that’s here with us for a period of years, it’s a crime victim, it’s that first impression day in and day out. It has to continue to be the best impression for the people of Livingston County.”