By Elisabeth Costanzo Stewart
Taking one step into Sheriff Frederick J. Akshar II’s (CJPO ‘99) office explains it all. Each wall is covered with reminders of the three guiding factors in his life – God, family, and community. The combination of photos of his wife and children, mementos from his days in the Senate, and verses reminding him about hope, momentarily can make someone forget that they’re standing in a building that houses a 536-bed correctional facility. But this is intentional. These visuals serve as a constant reminder to Akshar that regardless of one’s status within his building, with hard work, compassionate support, and the right motivators, success will follow.
Sheriff Fred Akshar was born in Patterson, NJ. When he was 11, his parents relocated their family to Afton, NY in search of a simpler life. Akshar’s adolescence was shaped by his small town. In a village like Afton, Fred couldn’t help but absorb lessons in good neighborliness, the merit of physical work, and the value of a dollar. As the oldest of seven children, he balanced helping out at home with playing baseball on the 1997 state championship team, and working after-school jobs in agriculture and welding. Somewhat subconsciously, Fred and a group of his friends felt drawn to public safety and public service. After talking it over, they concluded that the most effective way to help their neighbors was to become police officers.
Just like many students in the region, when it came time to decide on where to go to college, Akshar selected SUNY Broome primarily due to convenience. He could easily commute from home, complete his courses in Criminal Justice: A.A.S., all while working in between classes to fund his education.
‘It took me an extra semester to finish my degree. I always make sure to share this, to emphasize that each student’s journey is unique,” shared Akshar. “I was a first-generation college student, working my way through school, all while trying to be a present source of support for my mother and my younger siblings in the wake of my parents’ divorce. Sometimes life happens, and you just need a little extra time to regroup.”
After graduating from SUNY Broome, Akshar was hired as a young deputy in the Chenango County Sheriff’s Office. He spent two years in Chenango County, before joining the team in Broome County. Fred flourished throughout his 13 years with the Broome County Sheriff’s Office, rising to the rank of Undersheriff. Just as he was quietly preparing to run for the position of Broome County Sheriff, an opportunity that he hadn’t considered presented itself via a special election.
At the young age of 36, Akshar asked himself a question that has subsequently recurred throughout his professional career. “Where can I best serve my community?” In 2015, the answer to that question was “by representing the 52nd District in the New York State Senate.”
Entering the political arena amidst a special election was daunting, to say the least. When polled, only 7% of the voting population was able to recognize the name “Fred Akshar.” After a breathless, whirlwind campaign over the course of 90 days, Akshar won the special election and two more Senate elections after that. His career as a Senator was shaped by two beliefs. First, Fred started each day by remembering that serving as New York State Senator was a privilege granted to him by the people of his community. Secondly, he reiterated that any successes that followed throughout his career were thanks to a collaborative effort from his team and the overarching grace of God.
While Akshar truly loved his work in the New York State Senate, when he became husband and father, both his life and his priorities changed. Fred opted not to seek reelection for the Senate and announced his candidacy for Broome County Sheriff. He assumed the role of Sheriff on January 1, 2023.
“I can honestly admit now that I was not prepared to be Broome County’s Sheriff in 2015,” explained Akshar. “My time spent away from the badge as a senator in Albany prepared me to be the sheriff that I am today. Those seven years in the Senate allowed me to contextualize the plight of everyday, hardworking New Yorkers. I gained a different view of the criminal justice system and truly benefited from having a diverse group of teachers from across party lines.”
Though Sheriff Akshar and Undersheriff Sammy L. Davis (CJPO ‘96) have been in their new roles for less than a year, big changes are already underway. While their work is certainly difficult, their commitment to public service, public safety, and their personal guiding factors are making a difference in our community each day.
Were you inspired by Sheriff Fred Akshar’s story? Read more stories about our civically engaged alumni in the digital edition of BROOME Magazine!