About James Sheppard

Since stepping down as Rochester police chief and becoming involved in politics — first as a Monroe County legislator and now as a candidate for mayor — James has continued his lifelong service to the community.

James announced his candidacy for mayor because he genuinely believes that his experience, skills, temperament, and vision make him the best qualified candidate to lead our city forward. The current city government is not working for our citizens — for neighborhood organizations, parents and students, developers, employers, or those mired in poverty. James' love for this city and concerns about its future are what drive him every single day.

Where you're from doesn't and shouldn't determine where you end up - but it certainly informs your perspective. James grew up one of 12 children with two hard-working parents who did everything they could to help their kids make their way. James knows struggle intimately. He understands from firsthand experience the role government services and support can play in people’s lives - like the blocks of government cheese that kept his family fed as a child. Government that works can be a force for good. Government without strong or principled leadership can undermine our community and, indeed, our nation.

Real leadership is evident on its face. It takes struggle, sacrifice and compromise from someone who is experienced at all three tasks - and has a demonstrated record of results owing to that philosophy. That's why James Sheppard wants to be your mayor. Because unfortunately, the city of Rochester is broken right now - and he is the right leader to usher in a new era at City Hall. One focused on transparency, inclusiveness, and delivering measurable results for all of Rochester's citizens.

Public Servant

Retired Chief of Police James Sheppard has served the Rochester community for more than 30 years. His police career began in 1981 when he became a member of the Rochester Police Department. From there, Sheppard served at every level, management position and in almost every assignment offered by the RPD.

His service spanned the community with time spent in the Highland Section, Professional Development Section, Tactical Unit, Special Investigations Section, Clinton Section Neighborhood Empowerment Team (NET), Professional Standards Section, Patrol Division East and the Operations Bureau and Research & Evaluation.

During his tenure as Police Chief, James embraced a philosophy of “Policing in the Spirit of Service,” which encouraged officers to provide service to members of the Rochester community in a manner consistent with what they would want a member of their own family to receive. As Chief, he consistently demonstrated extraordinary leadership as he modeled the behaviors he strove to inspire, and successfully weaved community engagement into the fabric of the department.



James also employed numerous strategies to engage the Rochester community and solicit input from residents and stakeholders, including barbershop talks, “Chief on the Street events,” weekly radio appearances, school presentations, and church/police recruitment drives.

Sheppard also served as the Director of the Office of Public Integrity for the City of Rochester; responsible for ensuring, through audits and investigations, the professionalism of employees and the integrity of all contracting for business with the City.

Focus on Youth

James Sheppard’s initiation as a public servant began in 1979, when he worked for the New York State Division for Youth, as a counselor assigned to a group home for at-risk young men. His concern and focus on youth has continued throughout his career. Through example, James Sheppard demonstrated the virtues of youth engagement by regularly reading to elementary students, adopting grade school classes, and hosting youth interaction events at the public safety building. Due to James' leadership, many members of the department embraced the Policing in the Spirit of Service philosophy, and the men and women of the Rochester Police Department volunteered in record numbers to initiate positive interactions with the community and our youth. Volunteerism was further facilitated through a rejuvenated Police Activities League.

Since retiring from the Rochester Police Department, James continues to serve and engage with the Rochester community. He previously worked at the Center for Youth, in the New Beginnings Program, a collaboration with the Rochester City School District that serves at-risk young men. He now works with youth as Vice President of Youth Development at Dale Carnegie. In addition, he serves on several area non-profit Boards: IBERO American Action League, BIVONA, NAMI (National Association of Mental Illness), and Prevention First (Fire Prevention & Education).

Personal information

James Sheppard holds a BA Degree from Empire State College (State University of New York) in Criminal Justice and Community Service, and is a 1998 graduate of the FBI National Academy. He and his wife June reside in the city and have three adult children, James, Tamara and Stephanie, and two grandchildren.

Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lots of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.
— Robert F. Kennedy