Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick stepping down to lead progressive advocacy group

Matt Steecker
Ithaca Journal

Svante Myrick announced Wednesday he is resigning from his position as mayor of the City of Ithaca to serve as the executive director of People for the American Way, a progressive advocacy group, starting in February.

Myrick announced his resignation in a Common Council meeting as well on Facebook, stating that he intends to serve in his new role as a way to protect voting rights and work against Donald Trump's claim last year that the presidential election was stolen through electoral and voter fraud.

"I am alarmed at the state of our democracy," Myrick said. "I believe my service can make a difference in the national conversation on voting and elections, and I want to protect that American dream for people of all backgrounds.

Myrick was first elected as mayor in 2011.

Myrick's mayoralty included the reconstruction of the Ithaca Commons, the $37 million rebuild of the water treatment plant and other improvements in infrastructure, public investment resulting in returns including $108 million in affordable housing, and completion of the Waterfront Trail which has fostered private investments in renovation of the Ithaca Farmers Market, new medical facilities from Guthrie and Cayuga Medical Centers, and new market rate and affordable housing along the waterfront.

His mayoralty also included tensions with the Ithaca Police Benevolent Association, which operated on a contract that was more than a decade old until the Common Council and bargaining unit finally agreed to a new contract in December.

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During Myrick's mayoralty, an internal audit by the Ithaca Police Department revealed that over a decade, a police investigator failed to investigate over 100 cases, many of which were sexual assault cases. Attorney Ed Kopko later confirmed Christine Barksdale was the investigator the city was referring to in the investigations dispute.

Following the audit, the city sought to terminate Barksdale.

Barksdale then sued the city. The city of Ithaca and Barksdale settled the lawsuit last year.

Laura Lewis, a Common Council alderperson for Ithaca's fifth ward, will become Ithaca's acting mayor starting on Feb. 7. Lewis was first elected to the Common Council in 2017.

Lewis has been an advocate for more affordable housing in the city. Recently, she has served on the Ithaca Eviction/Displacement Defense Project. She successfully presented legislation and a budget request to Common Council in 2021 for a Right to Counsel program to provide legal representation to tenants in eviction court.

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