ITHACA, N.Y.—About once a month for, seemingly, the last several years, a rumor about Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick seeking higher office crops up again. Sometimes fueled by his admirers who want to see him gain more influence, and other times fueled by his detractors, who’d prefer he leave town and not come back.
Still, it was a bit of a surprise earlier this month when Myrick’s name popped up in a New York Post story about prospective lieutenant governor candidates. Myrick was explicitly named in the article as on “the shortlist,” for New York Attorney General Letitia James, who’s now running for governor, citing two unnamed sources. Current Governor Kathy Hochul, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, U.S. Representative Thomas Suozzi and Paul Nichols, who is chief counsel for NYS Senator Leroy Comrie, have also entered the Democratic primary for the governor’s seat.
Asked whether or not he intends to enter the crowded field of candidates for governor, Myrick’s answer is a quick no. But he is slightly more guarded when asked about the potential to serve as lieutenant governor.
“There’s nothing to it, it’s just rumors,” Myrick said in response to the articles. “Jumaane’s doing a great job as speaker in New York City, Tish James is doing a great job as attorney general, and Kathy Hochul is doing a great job as governor. I’m just going to keep doing my job here.”
Myrick acknowledges having talked to James, Hochul and Williams since their respective campaigns began, though he said he wants to keep those conversations private, including regarding whether or not he has been offered the role of lieutenant governor with any of those candidates.
“I have no plans to leave the City of Ithaca,” he said. “I take phone calls, but I’ve got two years left in my term […] It’s not like I’m on LinkedIn looking for jobs. If somebody approaches with a job, I’d consider it, but it’d have to be pretty impactful to leave this city. This is my home now.”
As Joe Biden was assembling his presidential cabinet early in 2021, Myrick was courted for a potential position in the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. At the time, he said that any position he would take outside the City of Ithaca would have to wield enough power to effect tangible change—more than what he feels he can do as mayor. Obviously, Myrick did not end up leaving the city, and the last eight months has seen the debut of the Reimagining Public Safety effort and the adoption of the Ithaca Green New Deal.
But would the position of lieutenant governor fit that criteria of enough power to enact change? Myrick is non-committal on that point.
“I guess it would depend on the governor,” Myrick said. “Some LGs are to be neither seen nor heard [an Arrested Development reference]. That’s how some lieutenant governors are, so it would depend.”
At this point, nearly 10 years after taking office, Myrick is one of the longest serving mayors in Ithaca’s history. If he were to end his term in two years, it’s fair to say that his legacy would lie in the single most continuous problem the city’s faced during his administration: the housing market and how difficult it is to afford living in the city limits. There’s been plenty of housing development during Myrick’s tenure, but its actual market impact is murky so far.
Outside of that, the Ithaca Green New Deal and the Reimagining campaign could be legacy-makers, and the fact that they’ve both been such a focus of the last year could indicate someone who is on their way out of office. It’s fair to think that, Myrick said, but he pushed back on that conclusion.
“I’m certainly tired, but I don’t know if that’s just being 34,” Myrick said, laughing. He said that the last two years have been, predictably, the hardest he has had in office, but that he feels like the momentum some of his initiatives have built over the last several months has reinvigorated his zeal for the job. “I might run for re-election, certainly the job is set to change, so it would be a slightly different job that I would be running for. It’s hard for me to imagine not being mayor, so I want to continue serving this community if I can.”