ITHACA, N.Y. –– Nicole LaFave, the assistant director of diversity alumni programs at Cornell University and a second term school board member, has announced her candidacy for the Tompkins County Legislature to represent District 1.

The first district represents Central Downtown Ithaca, the NorthSide, the SouthSide and West Hill.

“I am running for County Legislature because, in my heart of hearts, I am a public servant. I am running for County Legislature because we need more BIPOC women at the table with decision-making power who can empathize with the many experiences of our constituents that keep them trapped in intergenerational poverty and without access to resources to improve their life trajectory. I seek a seat at the table to be a voice for segments of our community that feel unseen and unheard,” LaFave said in her candidacy announcement.

LaFave prides herself on her involvement with the Board of Education of the Ithaca City School District, where she says she has, “fought for all students to have the right to an engaging and equitable education regardless of socioeconomic class and race” but also her community activism –– LaFave is a co-founding member of Black Lives Matter Ithaca. On top of those achievements, she has also served as a member of the Ithaca Community Police Review Board and the United Way Grant Review Team. Nicole believes that her experience with governance, public service and community activism would make her an asset to the Tompkins County Legislature.

“Ithaca is Gorges is a slogan we see on bumper stickers and T-shirts, but more and more, I find myself asking –– Ithaca is Gorges for whom? Who gets to enjoy the beauty of this city and the many treasures it bears?  What are some of the barriers that keep residents from accessing the quality of life that Ithaca has to offer and how can I best be a part of breaking down those barriers?” LaFave said. “I am running for the Tompkins County Legislature because I believe in the promise of Ithaca and the virtue of community building. I seek to serve because it is my desire and passion to see every single resident of TC living their best life, an equitable life, a life of abundance, of joy, fortune and fortitude.”

The legislature hopeful is also a working-class mother of three from Harlem who has now been an Ithacan for 17 years –– LaFave moved to the City of Ithaca to attend Ithaca College in 2003 where she received a Bachelor of Arts in Sociology. LaFave is currently the Assistant Director of Diversity Alumni Programs at Cornell University, where she said she, “cultivates and builds relationships with diverse alumni and spearheads equitable and inclusive programming to create lifelong learning opportunities for the Cornell community.”

Social justice, racial justice, and climate justice are at the heart of LaFave’s platform. In her candidacy announcement, she said she believes that every resident of Tompkins County, and the City of Ithaca, “will benefit from a more socially just and equitable County that seeks to close the gap on inequities that impact all of our communities, especially BIPOC and rural communities.”

 Her campaign will focus on five key platform points:

  • Supporting the movement in county government to center diversity, equity, and justice in its deliberations and decisions.
  • A robust economic recovery plan that supports local businesses, emphasizes use of local labor for new developments, and focuses on a living wage for all in Tompkins County.
  • Creating more green, low-income housing in downtown Ithaca with access to parks and pedestrian sidewalks in areas with less traffic and air pollution.
  • Fighting climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by expanding affordable and renewable energy sources to all residents of Tompkins county.
  • Increasing the number of alternative models for incarceration and strengthening existing programs that support reentry work and rethinking our criminal justice system.

“I am running for County Legislature to represent District 1 because I would like to see all of my constituents living a better quality of life. I would like to see all of my neighbors earning a living wage, accessing quality childcare, and living in truly affordable housing here within the district if they so choose,” LaFave said regarding her platform. To learn more about LaFave’s platform visit her website here.

LaFave joins GIAC’s Travis Brooks in running for the District 1 seat currently held by Leslyn McBean-Clairborne, who is not . She also notes that she will also be seeking reelection to the Ithaca City School District Board of Education in May.

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