ITHACA, N.Y. — For Keith Hannon, coming back to Ithaca in 2010 after spending about nine years in Los Angeles was like coming home. And after this recent presidential election, he said running for Tompkins County Legislator was inevitable for him.
“I can’t just keep fighting with friends and family on Facebook,” he said.
Hannon is running for District 5 legislator, which encompasses the Town of Ulysses and portions of the towns of Enfield and Ithaca.
He said he’s always had an interest in politics and communications and getting involved in local government was something he often considered — he was just waiting for the right time to run.
“It just never feels like a good time again to throw your hat into a political race,” he said, noting that his perspective changed after Donald Trump was elected president.
He said that watching the tumultuous election made him take a “hard look” at the local political scene.
“Are we really practicing what we preach in terms of how progressive we are?” he asked himself. “Do I really have the fire? Do I really have the time to put in an effort that’s worthy of my constituency?”
He said he attended meetings or talked with people about what it’s like to be in a local leadership position, and he listened to six months worth of legislative meetings, comparing them to what the general public says they want and support.
He also weighed the needs of his family, two sons and a daughter who was born this week.
But he decided he is ready to make the commitment.
“I can’t sit on the sidelines anymore and just say, ‘You know what, it’s somebody else’s problem to run for office.’”
The way he sees it, local problems are everybody’s problems.
Hannon graduated from Ithaca College and moved to California shortly afterward. Despite living there for a few years, he and his wife Casey Keller knew they wanted to raise a family in Ithaca.
“The move back to Ithaca was purely inspired by the fact that we found out we were going to have a child and we wanted to start our family here. We wanted to come back,” he said.
But the magic of the Ithaca area — 10-square miles surrounded by reality — isn’t necessarily available to other people the way it has been available to Hannon and his family. He says he got lucky when they decided to move back to the Ithaca area.
He was hired on as the Director of Digital Innovation at Cornell University and his wife was hired at GiveGab. He also began working in 2013 as part-time contingent faculty at Ithaca College and has continued working there on-and-off for the past several years. He’s currently employed as the Communications Director at the Boyce Thompson Institute.
But not everybody has had the same luck making their lives work in the Ithaca area, he said.
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“The way in which we’re growing is starting to leave people behind and that was very troubling for me,” Hannon said. “We’re losing people in the childbearing years, (the) 25-44 demographic …We’re not an affordable place to live.”
Housing affordability, he said, will be among one of his primary focuses if he is elected.
That pairs with his push for a higher living wage and better work contracts for people, something he recently advocated for when Ithaca College contingent faculty were threatening to strike if the college was unwilling to work on a reasonable compromise with the SEIU Local 200United members.
“By and large, we just need to start paying people what they’re worth,” he said.
Featured photo provided.
Correction: Hannon met his wife while living in California, not at Ithaca College as originally reported.