Retired Rochester police chief James Sheppard remembers growing up poor, one of 12 siblings in a family that sometimes relied on government cheese and other food subsidies to get by.
Sheppard said Wednesday that experience has motivated his work with city youth — and now, his first-ever run for public office.
At the Workers United Union Hall on East Avenue, Sheppard announced a run for a Monroe County Legislature seat representing southeast Rochester and northeast Brighton. The district is now represented by Democratic Legislator Paul Haney, who is term-limited and cannot run again.
In his remarks, Sheppard often focused on county funding for youth, including recent cuts to child care subsidies for low-income working parents. The county can and should do more, he said.
"Monroe County has decided not to invest in youth and save nickels and dimes now but spend millions in the future to educate, remediate and incarcerate," he said.
Sheppard retired in late 2013, facing an uncertain future at the helm of the Rochester Police Department as newly-elected Mayor Lovely Warren took office. He served for more than 30 years with the city police.
Former mayor Thomas Richards was on hand for Sheppard's announcement Wednesday. So were other Democrats involved in a late push to re-elect Richards after he lost the 2013 primary, including party fundraiser and campaigner Ken Warner and Molly Clifford, who is running for City Council.
Asked if he anticipates Warren's support, Sheppard said he does. "We're all in the same party," he said.
Since retiring, Sheppard said he has been busy volunteering with School 50 and the Center for Youth and working in youth development with Dale Carnegie Training.
He said he is now focused on transitioning from a role as a public servant who was narrowly focused on public safety to an elected official with broader concerns.
Sheppard mentioned the county's finances and corruption investigations — an apparent reference to the local development corporation case — as other campaign issues.
He acknowledged others may be looking to run for the seat and said he would welcome competitors.
"I want a fight," Sheppard said.
All 29 County Legislature seats are up for grabs in this fall's election.
In the city, the 23rd Legislative District includes the Park and Monroe Avenue areas, Cobbs Hill, the South Winton Road area, Browncroft and Winton Village.