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New Oswego County sheriff has high hopes for the department

Payne Horning
Don Hilton is now leading the Oswego County Sheriff's Office, where his law enforcement career began 30 years ago.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, Oswego County has a new sheriff. Don Hilton, a former detective and SWAT team supervisor with the Syracuse Police Department, was elected to fill the job last year after longtime Sheriff Reuel Todd retired.  

Hilton took over at the start of the year. It's a new job for him, but in familiar territory. He started his career in law enforcement as a corrections officer at the Oswego County's Sheriff's Office about 30 years ago.

"I'm actually back home," Hilton said. "It feels great to be here. It's rewarding."

Although he continued to live in the Oswego County town Hastings, Hilton would go on to work at the Syracuse Police Department and later as a federal drug intelligence officer with the northern New York district office. He plans to use that outside experience to modernize and upgrade the sheriff's office, including implementing new policies like offering a school resource officer to any county school that requests one.

"We would like to get it county wide, so it’s retired police officers or peace officers that are armed in the schools – again if the school districts request it," Hilton said. 

Hilton says he hopes the public will notice a difference in the way the sheriff's office is run under his leadership, but there's at least one change he won't make.

"It's very clear to me that Sheriff Todd cared deeply for the men and women in this department, and I think - or I hope - I can provide the same atmosphere around here that he did as far as taking care of the men and women who worked here and placing their needs first," He said.

Hilton won election in a surprise upset last year when he beat Oswego County Undersheriff Gene Sullivan in a September primary. Hilton then ran unopposed in the general election in November. 

Payne Horning is a reporter and producer, primarily focusing on the city of Oswego and Oswego County. He has a passion for covering local politics and how it impacts the lives of everyday citizens. Originally from Iowa, Horning moved to Muncie, Indiana to study journalism, telecommunications and political science at Ball State University. While there, he worked as a reporter and substitute host at Indiana Public Radio. He also covered the 2015 session of the Indiana General Assembly for the statewide Indiana Public Broadcasting network.