Ontario County sheriff candidates Silvio Palermo (left) and David Cirencione

CANANDAIGUA — Had they been asked about running for Ontario County sheriff in 2022 a year ago, Dave Cirencione and Silvio Palermo say their answer would have been no.

However, their stances changed in the weeks and months following the resignation of Sheriff Kevin Henderson and his undersheriff, Dave Frasca. Henderson, a longtime county deputy before he was elected sheriff, was less than three years into his first term after defeating Palermo in a 2018 election.

“I had absolutely no intention of running for sheriff again, because after the last election I really wanted the former sheriff to succeed,” said Palermo, a retired Gates police sergeant. “Public safety is the most important thing in a community, and I wanted a successful law enforcement agency in this county, so running again wasn’t even a thought until this happened.”

“The circumstances dictated my running for sheriff. The situation came to me,” said Cirencione, a sheriff’s office lieutenant and 20-year veteran of the department. “It’s always been my goal, since I was a child, to be a police officer. The rank I achieved was never part of my dream. As far as running for sheriff, we found ourselves in unprecedented times, and somebody needed to stick up and step up for the people in this organization — and it was me. Other people were coming to me, both from within the sheriff’s office and the community.”

While their reasons for running in next week’s Republican primary are somewhat parallel, Palermo and Cirencione are at different ends of the spectrum when it comes to who they believe is the better candidate.

“I think the current situation sheds a light on the need for a fresh start,” Palermo said. “I truly believe that when I ran four years ago, after a long-tenured administration (under Sheriff Phil Povero), a fresh start was a good thing. After a while, I think bringing in a fresh perspective and a fresh set of eyes is a good thing.

“Unfortunately, four years ago, I think people were hesitant for change, but after the circumstances of what happened the last three years it has shined a bright light on the need to move forward with a fresh start to be able to bring true, positive change.”

“My opponent chose to work outside of the county. I have spent my adult life building positive relationships with the men and women of the sheriff’s office, the people of this county and community partners, including fire and emergency medical services,” Cirencione countered. “The district attorney’s office, the courts, mental health, hospitals — I have positive relationships established with all of these entities all over the county. For me, it’s a natural step to take over the reins of the sheriff’s office.”

No matter the outcome of the primary, there will be a contested race for sheriff in November. Retired state police Sgt. Steve Slavny will be on the Democratic line, while Palermo will appear on the Conservative Party line.

Cirencione, who was part of Henderson’s command staff, declined to discuss the investigation and Henderson’s resignation at length.

“I don’t want to make this about Kevin. He’s been gone for nine months and is no longer in the area,” Cirencione said. “I will say I was disappointed and was the first member of the management team calling for him to resign, in person, because ethics matter to me. I was transparent the whole time. If I had any concern that something was going to come up on me (in the investigation), I would have never entered this race.”

“Like any agency, you go through bumps in the road. We had some issues at the top, but they are gone and have been corrected,” Cirencione added. “The vast majority of the men and women who serve and protect in the Ontario County sheriff’s office are ethical, dedicated, brave people, and they sacrifice everything to come out here to protect the people in this community. I count myself among them.”

Cirencione said he has talked to many sheriff’s office employees before and after he decided to run, and believes his experience in the department makes him the better choice.

“The sheriff’s office has six divisions and over 300 employees when fully staffed,” he said. “When I was in uniform, I had 90 men and women under my command ... and I have experience working with several divisions in the department. My opponent worked at a town police department where he was a first-line supervisor as a sergeant, with three or four people under his command on a normal day. I’ve met with a lot of the department members outside of work when I started this process months ago. They want to know what can they expect if I’m in this position. My response was my door will be open and I am here to help continue the healing process and make this a better place to work.

“This is a wonderful agency, and we provide excellent police services, correctional and 911. For as much bad press the sheriff’s office has taken in the last few months, there’s a lot of things we do right that have been lost in this. This has never been about me. I’m there for the people who work there and the people we serve.”

After retiring from the Gates PD following a long career, Palermo took a job as a federal police officer with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in Canandaigua. He had to leave that job to run for sheriff.

“I could have easily rolled out another 10-12 years, or more, in the federal system,” Palermo noted. “Again, I had no intention of running for sheriff and I was starting a new career in law enforcement on the federal side. I couldn’t have been any happier, but in September the news broke about the sheriff’s office and it really started to bother me. I was having sleepless nights thinking about it. I truly believed I could have done better if I was elected four years ago, and the sheriff’s office personnel deserved better and Ontario County deserved better, so I started an assessment of whether or not to run again and many people reached out including from within the sheriff’s office. They admitted and openly said we didn’t support you last time, but we were wrong. They are ready for change and ready for a fresh start.”

Palermo said it took several months for him to make the decision.

“Ultimately, you have to look yourself in the mirror and ask yourself, what is the right thing to do? I really felt the sheriff’s office needs a fresh start, needs a fresh approach and it needs objective leadership, free from personal bias,” he said. “I don’t know my opponent personally. I don’t know his involvement in anything, but I know he was part of the culture in the sheriff’s office and that’s the only culture he knows, and it’s the only law enforcement agency he’s worked for. I don’t think he can bring a true, fresh start that is free from personal bias.”

“Not only do I bring a clean slate, I bring a diverse experience from all levels of law enforcement — from village police all the way to the federal level,” Palermo added. “That is how you bring fresh approaches. That’s how you have an open mind. I have seen it done different ways. I don’t have the mindset of, ‘well, we’ve always done it this way.’ I felt I had to run for sheriff when you looked at all these factors.”

Tags

  • Dave Cirencione
  • Silvio Palermo
  • Ontario County Sheriff
  • Kevin Henderson
  • Dave Frasca
  • Steve Slavny
  • Gates

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