This is an op-ed written by former City of Ithaca Alderperson Donna Fleming, who worked on the proposal idea during her time in office. It was not written by The Ithaca Voice. To submit op-eds, please send them to Matt Butler at

An important referendum is on the ballot for City of Ithaca voters on November 8 (or by early voting beginning October 29) calling for the appointment of a City Manager.  Common Council unanimously passed a resolution in November 2021 promoting this reform.

Key aspects of this referendum are that: 

  • A professional manager would manage the day-to-day operations of the City, supervise Department heads, and develop and oversee a budget
  • This manager would be hired by the Common Council based on education and experience
  • An elected Mayor will preside over Common Council, vote on all matters, and serve as the chief liaison between Council and the City Manager.

As in our current structure, the Mayor will still articulate a vision, propose policies, and formally represent the City. With an appointed professional Manager, City residents and taxpayers will benefit from more efficient operations and more reliable services. Because the Mayor will no longer have a Chief of Staff, the change does not entail an increase in cost to City taxpayers.  

Appointed by former Mayor Myrick, I was on the Task Force that developed this proposal. I talked with six Mayors in New York State who work with City Managers and they all enthusiastically endorse the structure. The majority of cities our size in the USA use this form of government, which was developed over 100 years ago in the progressive era to promote efficiency, transparency, and accountability in municipalities. Tompkins County operates very smoothly under a close model, with a professional Administrator and a Legislative Chair whose role is similar to that of a Mayor.

The referendum reads: “Shall a local law be approved that would amend the Ithaca City Charter and the City of Ithaca Municipal Code to create a position of City Manager charged with oversight of City staff, to be appointed and supervised by the Common Council, and to relieve the Mayor of those administrative responsibilities while newly giving the Mayor a vote on the Common Council as the political leader of the City?”

Please vote FOR creating a new position of City Manager in the City of Ithaca. For further information voters can read local press coverage of the referendum, talk with Alderpersons who served in 2021, and become familiar with the International City/County Manager Association.   

Donna Fleming

Alderperson, Third Ward, 2012 – 2021