Mayor Svante Myrick on the campaign trail in 2011. (Courtesy of Wikimedia)

Ithaca, N.Y. — Svante Myrick was elected Ithaca’s mayor in November 2011 with 55 percent of the vote. He was just 24.

Myrick’s successful campaign catapulted him into the national spotlight. In the years since, Myrick – now 27 – has presided over contentious budget fights, led a construction boom, and tried reshaping the future of the city.


Here’s everything you need to know about Mayor Myrick, the young face of Ithaca, in 9 questions. Click on the question to find your answer.

1 – What has Myrick done since becoming mayor?
2 – What has he been criticized for?
3 – I heard Myrick was once homeless. Is that really true?
4 – Was Myrick the first black mayor of Ithaca? The youngest?
5 – Is Myrick the youngest-ever mayor in the U.S.? In N.Y.? Who is Rusty Hammer? 
6 – How was Myrick elected two years after graduating? How crucial was the Cornell student vote to his victory?
7 – How much is he paid? Where does he live?
8 – I saw Myrick on national TV once. Where has he been interviewed?
9 – Is Myrick funny?

(Did we miss your question? If so, email me at jstein@ithacavoice.com.)

1 – What has Myrick done since becoming mayor?

In 2014, Myrick closed the $3.5 million budget deficit he inherited in 2012. He touted the budget – which imposed significant cuts (more below) – primarily for bringing the lowest tax levy increase in over a decade. Ithaca’s fiscal stress score is now better than 95% of all other N.Y. municipalities, according to state statistics compiled by The Syracuse Post-Standard.

Myrick ran on a platform of expanding the stock of Ithaca housing to create more affordable real estate. He has overseen a building boom in downtown Ithaca. As part of his hope to increase building density in some parts of Ithaca, Myrick spearheaded the passing of the Comprehensive Plan for Collegetown that aims to protect the single-family houses on the border of the student neighborhood.

Also during Myrick’s tenure, he has managed the city’s response to flooding caused by ice jams in Cascadilla Creek and Hurricane Sandy, pushed through a new sidewalk policy, and overseen a $10 million redesign of the Commons.


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2 – What has he been criticized for?

While Myrick erased the budget deficit, doing so required sharp cuts to the Ithaca Police Department and the Ithaca Fire Department. Firefighters and police in particular roundly criticized Myrick’s budget, which created several vacancies in each city service.

Myrick has also sparred with Cornell over the university’s Memorandum of Understanding, through which Cornell pays a voluntary contribution since it doesn’t pay property taxes. Cornell officials have said Myrick used misleading statistics to publicly pressure Cornell into paying more to the city.

Myrick’s plans to push forward more affordable housing and public transportation have been seen as contributing to a shortage of parking in the city. Many critics see available parking in Ithaca as crucial to the city’s future, and worry that Myrick’s efforts will reduce that supply.
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3 – I heard Myrick was once homeless. Is that really true?

Yes, Myrick was homeless for times as a child.

Myrick and his three siblings were raised by his mother, who sometimes worked double shifts at low-paying jobs, and grandparents. The family spent weeks in shelters, relied on Medicaid and food stamps and struggled to make ends meet, according to a Syracuse Post-Standard article published shortly after his election.

From that Post-Standard story:

Svante Myrick, just elected as the youngest mayor in Ithaca history, learned about money by watching his mother. He calls it juggling pain.

When Myrick was a baby, the family spent weeks in shelters. In better times, his mother would pick up groceries at the local food pantry and work double-shifts at low-paying jobs.

“Do we pay the heat bill, or can it wait a month?” Myrick said, looking back.

Myrick mostly grew up in Earlville, a one stoplight village – population 872 – on the border of Madison and Chenango counties.

His father was a drug addict, Myrick has said.

“His addiction, his disease, drove us into poverty and into homelessness,” Myrick told Jim Lahue. “We spent nights in our car and weeks or months in homeless shelters….”

“Sometimes, we just ran out of food.”


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4 – Was Myrick the first black mayor of Ithaca? The youngest?

Yes, Myrick was the first black mayor of Ithaca. According to The Post-Standard article, he credits President Barack Obama’s autobiography “Dreams From My Father” for changing “the way I view myself.” Myrick also served on the Southside Community Center Board and tutored underserved youths in Ithaca.

Myrick is the youngest-ever mayor in the city. His age was made a divisive issue during his candidacy, with some of his competitors accusing him of inexperience.
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5 – Is Myrick the youngest-ever mayor in the U.S.? In N.Y.?
He also appears to be the youngest-ever mayor of a New York State municipality with more than 5,000 people, according to Wikipedia. For a remotely comparable example in the state’s history, one has to go to Seth Lowe – who was elected mayor of Brooklyn in 1850 at the age of 31.

Myrick is also one of the youngest people to ever serve as mayor of a city in the history of the United States. His stiffest competition for the title of youthful mayors may come from the colorfully named “Rusty Hammer,” who in 1954 became mayor of a California city with around 38,000 people at the age of 21.
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6 – How was Myrick elected two years after graduating? How crucial was the Cornell student vote to his victory?

Myrick deployed a campaign strategy that led him to raise tens of thousands of dollars and knock on tens of thousands of doors. Both efforts were unprecedented in Ithaca’s political history.

Myrick was criticized for using students to run much of his campaign. One of Myrick’s opponents in the Democratic primary, experienced legislator Pam Mackesey, accused Myrick of “carpetbagging.” Another competitor – Common Councilor JR Clairborne – held a press conference during the campaign to say, “Marshaling an army of students to invade the city does not make a mayor,” according to the Cornell Sun.

In the end, however, Myrick won both the Democratic primary and general elections with relatively little student support. Myrick beat Mackesey and Clairborne in seven of 11 election districts. Few students turned out to vote.

With registered Democrats heavily outnumbering Republicans in Ithaca, Myrick handily beat his opponents – including Wade Wykstra, then the commissioner of the Board of Public Works – in the general election.

Watch Myrick’s campaign announcement

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7 – How much is Myrick paid? Where does he live?
Myrick’s mayoral salary was $44,737 in 2013, according to government records. He lives in Collegetown.
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8 – I saw Myrick on national TV once. Where has he been interviewed?
Myrick has been interviewed by Kate Snow of NBC’s Rock Center, David Gregory of NBC’s Meet the Press, Ronan Farrow of MSNBC, and Larry King of OraTV. He was also favorably profiled in a New York Times story about Ithaca’s economy. Profiles of Myrick have also appeared in The Syracuse Post-Standard, The Root, the Huffington Post, Esquire, PolicyMic, Governing.com and elsewhere.

Watch the NBC segment with Kate Snow here:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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9 – Is he funny?
You be the judge. We’ve compiled here some of Myrick’s Facebook posts:


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.