ITHACA, N.Y. –– Two alderpersons for the City of Ithaca announced this week that they will not be running for reelection in 2021 –– Alderperson Deb Mohlenhoff and Seph Murtagh who represent the 5th Ward and 2nd Ward respectively. Their announcements come on the heels of Alderperson Donna Fleming’s last week.

For Alderperson Seph Murtagh, he will be completing his third term on Common Council at the end of 2021, having represented the 2nd ward since 2012.

“Representing the 2nd ward on the Common Council has been the honor of my life,” said Murtagh. “But I’ve been doing this for almost 10 years now, and I think it’s good for democracy to have a rotation on these seats. Ten years just feels like the right time to move on and make some room for new voices in city government.”  

Murtagh has chaired Common Council’s Planning and Economic Development Committee since 2013. He has also served for several years as the City of Ithaca’s Alternate Acting Mayor. In his announcement Murtagh said he’s proud of his work pushing for an increase in affordable housing, improved pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure and a permanent home for the Ithaca Community Gardens.

He has served as the city’s representative on several boards, including the Downtown Ithaca Alliance, the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, TCAT and the Ithaca Landmarks Preservation Commission.

It’s unclear what Murtagh’s involvement in local government may be in the future –– he notably ran unsuccessfully for state assembly in 2020.

Deb Mohlenhoff’s decision not to seek re-election this November was announced by 5th Ward Chair Jen Lyons over the weekend. Mohlenhoff, like Murtagh, is completing her third term on Common Council this year. She has served as Chair of the City Administration Committee, Chair of the City Budget Process and as Acting Mayor for several years. Though Deb will be stepping down from city government, she will still be in the public eye, maintaining her full-time position as Associate Vice President for College Relations/Chief of Staff at Tompkins Cortland Community College.

Upon hearing the announcement, fellow 5th Ward Alderperson Laura Lewis reflected on her time serving alongside Mohlenhoff stating, “it is a privilege to have worked alongside Deb these past three years. Her leadership, particularly throughout this pandemic, and her numerous contributions to Common Council will be evident in the City of Ithaca long into the future.”

“It has been an honor to serve in this role representing the 5th Ward for so many years. Working with City Staff and my Council Colleagues on so many important local issues has been extremely rewarding, especially knowing that I played a small part in much of the progress we have made as a City,” Mohlenhoff said about her decision.

“The opportunity to grow as a community leader and the interactions I have been able to have with so many local residents has been the most inspiring part of this public service. By announcing now,  I am hoping to allow for as much time for all those who might be interested in taking on this role to ask questions and be as prepared as possible to serve as an Alderperson to the City we all love.”

Petitions for Common Council will be available in February for any 2nd, 3rd, or 5th Ward resident interested in running for the open seat. This will be a two-year term leading up to 2023 when, following results from the 2020 census, all 10 Common Council seats will be open. Candidates for this open seat must live in the designated ward as of January 1, 2022.

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at