Oswego Alumni Team Up to Win Onondaga County Sheriff’s Race

Gene Conway ’77 spent a lifetime in law enforcement, but didn’t know politics. When he ran last year for Onondaga County sheriff, he turned to Benedicte Harris Doran ’91, a veteran political consultant.

Benedicte Harris Doran ’91 (left) managed last year’s successful campaign for former DeWitt, N.Y., Police Chief Gene Conway ’77 in the Onondaga County sheriff’s race. Irene Scruton, who directs SUNY Oswego’s MBA program, is a former member of the DeWitt Town Board.

Benedicte Harris Doran ’91 (left) managed last year’s successful campaign for former DeWitt, N.Y., Police Chief Gene Conway ’77 in the Onondaga County sheriff’s race. Irene Scruton, who directs SUNY Oswego’s MBA program, is a former member of the DeWitt Town Board.

It turned out to be a great move. Conway, a Republican, defeated Democrat Toby Shelley by a vote of 66,569-58,829.

“I should have also stopped and bought a Lottery ticket, because it turned out to be my lucky day when she said yes to managing my campaign,” Conway said during
his swearing-in Dec. 17 at DeWitt Town Hall.

It was quite a compliment, Doran said.

“In this line of work, you’re always behind the scenes,” she said. “A lot of us are really comfortable behind the scenes. But it was very nice that he recognized me because
I did work really hard and gave up a lot of my personal life to do it. But that’s how these things go.”

Conway spent his career preparing to be sheriff. His start in law enforcement came with the North Syracuse Police Department in 1977. A year later, he joined the sheriff’s department and climbed the ranks from deputy to captain of criminal investigations. In 2002, the Town of DeWitt, N.Y., hired him as police chief.

Conway earned an associate degree at Cayuga Community College in Auburn and commuted to classes in Oswego two or three days a week to earn a bachelor’s degree in public justice. He said the internship program in the Public Justice Department helped shape his life’s purpose.

“That was key in my path to enter law enforcement,” Conway said. “As a result, I have always encouraged and supported having interns when chief in DeWitt. Now as sheriff, I hope to see internship applications from Oswego students.”

Doran, an English major, chose Oswego for its strong writing program. But it was a speech in Oswego by then-Gov. Mario Cuomo that sparked her passion for politics.

“I really hadn’t been exposed to anything like that before going there because I was from a small town,” said Doran, who now works for U.S. Rep. John Katko, R-N.Y. “I couldn’t believe that I was hearing this guy speak. It was incredible. Although we are from different political parties, he made a lasting impression on me that I remember to this day.”

—Edwin Acevedo M’09

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