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Toby Shelley prepares to take over as Onondaga County Sheriff

Onondaga County Sheriff - elect Toby Shelley, Right , stands with his supporters
Toby Shelley for sheriff facebook
Onondaga County Sheriff-elect Toby Shelley, right , stands with a supporter.

Onondaga County sheriff-elect Toby Shelley is preparing to take office after absentee and affidavit ballots confirmed him as the winner late yesterday. In this case, seeking the office for the fourth time was the charm.

“As most people know, I’ve been working on this for 12 years, so that was a lot of time to prepare for this moment," Shelley said. "We’ve had a very solid team in place since the beginning of this race.”

Shelley emerged victorious over Esteban Gonzalez by more than 2% of the vote. Shelley said having new leadership will be a breath of fresh air into the department. One of his main priorities is the jails.

“Right off, in the first 30 days or so, we’re going to make the jails safe," Shelley said. "Neither one of them has had a full shake-down…downtown jail it’s been five years, Jamesville it’s been three years.  We’re going to make the jails safe for the people who work there and the people who live there.”

Shelley acknowledges that he has a lot to learn about the jails, and will work hard to get up to speed. He’s also putting together what he calls a self-inspection team to provide an outside set of eyes to offer suggestions for improvement. Shelley said he has a running list.

“We’re plugging in the most knowledgeable people to look at those things," Shelley said. "We’re not going to open our personnel records or anything like that.  Taking a look at our training, look at how we’re doing our manning, take a look at how we use our patrol cars.”

And, he said, they’re willing to do it free of charge. Shelley feels the department is looking forward to positive change.

“There’s a change in leadership throughout our government," Shelley said. "Presidents come and go, and my life seems to stay the same. You have to remember, people at the ground level will continue to do the good work that they do, regardless of who the sheriff is.  The work’s going to get done.”

Shelley spent 17 years with the sheriff's department before retiring in 2011. He will succeed Sheriff Gene Conway, who’s retiring after eight years on the job and a 45 year career in law enforcement.

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at