LONSBERRY: I'd still vote for Shep

I'd still vote for Sheppard.

I disagree with him, I don't think he's much of a politician, I would have run his campaign completely differently.

But he's still the one I'd call for advice if I had a problem.

He's still the one I respect and admire and look up to. He's a better man than I, and a better person than most. And if I could vote today, I'd vote for him.

A generation ago, Jim Sheppard was a nobody black cop out of the hills of the Southern Tier, come up to the big city to make his way. He ended up the chief of his department, and a county legislator, and now he wants the big chair.

And I think he's most qualified to sit in it.

His opponents are no jokes. Incumbent Mayor Lovely Warren didn't get where she is by accident. There is a game and she won it and she owns her job fair and square. Rachel Barnhart has shown that an insurgent candidacy can be intelligent and substantive, and that you can step forward and make a difference.

But neither one of them can match the integrity, character and experience of Jim Sheppard.

He doesn't talk about fighting violence, he has spent his life fighting violence. He has gone into scores of homes and sat on scores of couches, mourning with the grieving families of murder victims, showing them the two things he's best at -- respect and love. 

Again, I disagree with him.

He was the poster boy for the gun-banning SAFE Act, which I despise and resent. He essentially said that climate-change skeptics like me caused hurricanes Harvey and Irma. He is so far out on the progressive limb that I'm surprised it hasn't snapped off yet.

He is a liberal Democrat and I am a conservative Republican, so we're never going to agree on a whole range of issues.

But there are things in life bigger than issues, and disagreement in one part of life does not automatically lead to disrespect in another part of life. 

He is a simple and wise man who has spent his entire adult life exercising leadership and rendering service. He learned to manage himself, and then his fellow officers, and then an entire department. He has worked with department heads within city government, and with community leaders across the city and region. 

He didn't get the fancy college degree that comes on a silver platter. He didn't go to the Ivy League and he didn't go to law school. He went to a state-run mail-order college while he worked, to write papers and get credits after a night on the streets keeping the peace. That's how a working person builds himself up. That's how a black kid out of nowhere makes his way forward on a city paycheck.

That's how Jim Sheppard rose.

And it has pissed me off to see that disrespected in this campaign by those who would denigrate his police career. To attack the life's work of the first black man to rise from the ranks of the Rochester Police Department to become its chief is despicable. To say that that black man was anything other than a protector of black people -- and all people -- is to lie. It has also pissed me off to see his wife attacked because of the color of her skin. Jim Sheppard's wife is white, and she also is an ambulance worker who still, in middle age, works overnights on the ambulance caring for the people of the city of Rochester.

People like Jim Sheppard -- and his wife -- are the sort of people we want our children to grow up to be.

And people like Jim Sheppard are the sort of people we need in public office. People we can respect because of their character and integrity. 

I don't agree with Jim Sheppard, but I admire him and respect him.

And I trust his judgment, love and spirit of service. He is the leader Rochester needs.

He is the leader this troubled city's challenges demand.

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