Jeremy Cooney ’04 has been elected to represent the 56th District in the New York State Senate. He credits HWS with reinforcing his commitment to public service, a focus of his campaign.
After a successful run on a platform of service to upstate communities, Jeremy Cooney ’04 will be sworn in as the Democratic Senator representing New York’s 56th District on Jan. 1, 2021.
While Cooney’s platform has always been about providing needed resources and improving systems to benefit the community — focusing on issues such as education, health care access and criminal justice reform — the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent state-wide shutdown provided an opportunity to truly focus on community service.
Faced with the challenge of campaigning during a global pandemic, Cooney closed his campaign office and kept his staff on payroll, delivering meals to seniors and launching a county-wide book donation program that collected 60,000 books for local families who lacked access to libraries and schools during the shutdown. “I found ways to be present in a helpful, service-oriented way,” Cooney says. “I think people saw me more as a public servant than a politician. That’s what success looks like to me.”
The notion of service was instilled in Cooney at a young age — he was adopted from an orphanage in India and raised in Rochester by a single parent, Anne Cooney ’63, P’04. “I’ve always had a desire to give back to the community that helped raise me, and service was always part of my experience at the Colleges,” he explains. “And all these years later, I’m dedicating my career to public service.”
Cooney’s priorities after taking office will include improving educational outcomes for students and creating new jobs around infrastructure. He’s excited about opportunities that focus on renewable energy, agricultural practices and housing rehabilitation. “We can get New Yorkers back to work, earning more income and helping to meet the goal of reducing our carbon footprint,” he explains.
The 56th District is comprised of Monroe County and includes the towns of Brighton, Clarkson, Gates, Greece, Hamlin, Parma and parts of the city of Rochester. Cooney defeated Michael Barry Jr. by double digits to claim the seat, which has been represented by Republican Joseph Robach since 2003. Robach opted not to run for reelection this year.
A member of Chi Phi and a Druid, Cooney graduated cum laude with a degree in public policy studies and minors in economics and philosophy. He recalls the influence of his faculty adviser, Professor Emeritus of Public Policy Craig Rimmerman, who helped him bridge his interest in natural sciences and health care with a policy focus, and the person he describes as his biggest role model on campus, President Emeritus Mark D. Gearan L.H.D ’17, P’21. “Mark was one of my first calls after I won the election,” Cooney says, noting that Gearan was a particular inspiration to him when he served as president of the Hobart Student Government. “In the State Senate, having the opportunity to do good work on behalf of communities that need honest and new representation — that all comes back to the values that he and others on the campus instilled in me,” he says.
When it comes to offering advice for current HWS students interested in a career in politics, Cooney suggests that public service is a calling, not a career path. “Find something that you’re passionate about — health care access, climate change, social justice, criminal justice reform — and work hard to bring about that change,” he says. “If that leads you to an opportunity to change laws and policy, then go for it. Your HWS family will be behind you all the way.”