For almost two decades, Ed Szczesniak enforced the laws pertaining to elections in Onondaga County.
Now, he’s decided he’d rather be subject to them.
Szczesniak stepped down as Democratic Commissioner of Elections for the county last year and has decided to run for election to the county legislature because, he said, his district needs a change.
“My campaign slogan is all about three words: Experience plus leadership plus integrity equals change,” Szczesniak said. “That really synopsizes my view on why I’m running for office. I have the experience to help people achieve their goals. I’ve shown leadership in taking steps, taking action to improve a situation. And I define integrity as doing the right thing even when no one’s watching. When you put those together, you end up with change, which I think the people of this district are looking for.”
Szczesniak is running for the third district county legislature seat against incumbent Bill Meyer, who is currently chairman of the legislature. The third district covers the town of Cicero and part of the town of Manlius.
Szczesniak is a lifelong Democrat who has long been active in the party, but he doesn’t believe his political party is a priority.
“It’s part of the process just to get on the ballot,” he said. “But once you’re elected, you’re elected to represent all of the people, not just the people in your party. I think some people, especially some of our state senators, have forgotten that’s why they’re there.”
Because he wants to represent all of the district’s interests, Szczesniak has been going door-to-door, asking voters in the third district what issues concern them.
“It’s not about what I think is important,” he said. “It’s about what their priorities are. You’re elected to do what the people want, so I’m trying to get an understanding of what that is.”
The top three issues he’s hearing about are property taxes, jobs and the economy and traffic and transportation issues.
“Those are the things people are most concerned about, and those are the things I’ll address,” he said.
Though he would be a freshman legislator if elected, Szczesniak feels his experience as Democratic Commissioner of Elections would help him in the position.
“I know people from all levels, from the towns up to the state and federal level,” he said. “I have the ear of a lot of people.”
Szczesniak, a Buffalo native, is married with three children and eight grandchildren. He first ran for office in 1981, losing in a race for supervisor of the town of Clay. He then ran for county legislature in 1983 and was defeated by Bernie Kraft by 138 votes. Szczesniak headed the Onondaga County Democratic Committee from 1988 to 1994 and has also served on the state committee.
In addition to his political activity, Szczesniak is also involved in several community organizations, including the North Area YMCA, the Greater North Syracuse Chamber of Commerce and the Knights of Columbus.
While serving as Democratic Commissioner of Elections for the county, a position he held since 1991, Szczesniak owned and managed several residential and commercial properties. He also worked as Manpower coordinator for the Miller Brewing Company in Fulton and as an account executive with Merrill, Lynch, Pierce, Fenner and Smith.
Szczesniak is also a veteran. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the U.S. Army in 1965 and remained on active duty until 1971, serving in Korea and Vietnam. He transferred to the Army Reserves and retired in 1992 as a lieutenant colonel, having received a Bronze Star, Army Commendation Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and other distinctions.
Sarah Hall is the editor of the Eagle Star-Review and the Baldwinsville Messenger. The 2012 winner of the Syracuse Press Club's Selwyn Kershaw Professional Standards Award, she has been with Eagle Newspapers since 2006. She is a Liverpool native.