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Long-time Civil Liberties Leader Takes her Advocacy "Inside" Onondaga County Government

Scott Willis

A name synonymous with Central New York’s chapter of the NYCLU for nearly 20 years has taken a new position with Onondaga County.  Lawmakers Tuesday confirmed Barrie Gewanter as the next executive director of the Onondaga County/Syracuse Commission on Human Rights.

"I go from fighting on the outside in support of the bill of rights to fighting for human rights from a position on the inside of government.  It's a huge change for me, and it will also be a challenge in that I have to stand up  these two organizations from scratch."

In her new position, Gewanter will also be overseeing the jail oversight committee that she pressured county lawmakers to create following the deaths of two inmates in two years at the justice center. 

"The mission of the human rights commission is promoting human rights, and that's what I've been doing for so many years in the ACLU.  The methods might be a little bit different, but the mission remains.  And I'm pleased to serve and to be able to focus on one county instead of an entire region."

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle praised Gewanter.  Kevin Holmquist knows their political ideologies couldn't be further apart, but he's enjoyed working with her. 

Legislators Kevin Holmquist and Linda Ervin express confidence in Barrie Gewanter as she takes her post as Executive Director of the Syracuse/Onondaga County Commission on Human Rights.

  Gewanter starts her new job August 24th

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