ITHACA, NY – The Tompkins County Legislature welcomed its two newest members Monday in a swearing-in ceremony at the county legislature building.

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Anna Kelles, who will represent District 2, and Richard John, who will represent District 4, ran unlikely campaigns against the Democratic party’s choices for those seats and came out victorious.

After they had been officially sworn in by county clerk Maureen Reynolds, legislature vice-chair Jim Dennis welcomed his new colleagues warmly with a brief speech regarding “the things you’ll get to learn, the things you’ll get to do” as a legislator. Several other members of the legislature were also in attendance, as was a small crowd of Kelles’ and John’s supporters.

In a brief statement, Kelles asked her supporters to continue to stay engaged in the community.

“I think that will help us both be much more effective than we could be alone. We’re definitely standing with you all,” she said.

John quipped, “I would say this is one of the strangest job interviews I’ve ever done,” referring to his sudden, short campaign where he won via write-in.

Kelles and John said they’ve had to hit the ground running since taking office. Kelles, for instance, said she’s been attending legislature meetings since her win two weeks ago.

“Because of the special election we jump right in, we don’t wait. We’re learning on the job which makes it a little harder, but also really exciting,” John said.

Having won their seats just two weeks ago, on Nov. 4, the two will have had very little time to relax before their first official Tompkins County Legislature meeting tomorrow.

The quick start is the result of a series of resignations from the legislature earlier this year, which led to a special election to fill the seats Kelles and John now occupy.

After the swearing-in, Richard John speaks as Anna Kelles looks on.

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Kelles’ first goal is to connect with her new colleagues. “More than anything, getting to know the other legislators and building partnerships has to be the first step, has to be the first thing before I can really be effective,” she said.

Kelles and John both said that what little preparation time they’ve had to spare has been devoted to the upcoming budget vote, which will take place at Tuesday’s meeting.

In the longer term, John said he is looking to learn and contribute as much as possible to the Public Safety and Government Operations committees on which he’s been asked to serve.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.