ITHACA, N.Y. –– After a year as Chair of the Tompkins County Legislature, Leslyn McBean-Clairborne has been selected by her colleagues to serve another term.

“This past year has been quite a challenge … I’ve been thankful for colleagues like all of you to help support my leadership,” McBean-Clairborne said. “I can assure you that this year we are going to continue to do the business of County Government even while the pandemic continues … We may not always agree with each other, but we do not need to be disagreeable. We will be the beacon of hope and an example to other elected bodies on how we can work together.”

Director of the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and a member of the Legislature for more than 19 years, McBean-Clairborne has continued to be an advocate for human rights and diversity in Tompkins County throughout her tenure. Notably, McBean-Clairborne made headlines last year when she became the first Black woman to serve as Chair.

She was unanimously elected for her second term during the Jan. 5, 2021 meeting of the Tompkins County Legislature following a nomination by Legislator Shawna Black who is to serve as the vice-chair alongside her.

“Leslyn started [last year] in a world that would be forever changed when COVID-19 entered our community. She assumed the role with confidence and a sense of calm.” Black said. She continued by praising McBean-Clairborne’s charisma, intelligence, and connections to the community.

“She has mentored me and others and I’m sure she will continue to do this in the upcoming year,” Black said.

During the nomination process, Black also mentioned the multiple votes it took to put McBean-Clairborne in the Chair’s seat last year as legislators failed to come to a consensus several times in the early months of 2020. After two temporary chairs, McBean-Clairborne was finally selected to serve in February of last year.

Legislator Shawna Black, nominated by Deborah Dawson, was again elected unanimously to serve a third term as Vice Chair. Legislator Koreman complimented Black for being “excellent while navigating this stormy year,” and said that she is “steady at the helm.”

Upon accepting the position Black commenting on the stress of her last term and her hope for the upcoming one stating, “it’s been a very difficult year for many families in Tompkins County and mine is no different. I’m looking forward to a less eventful 2021.”

Anna Lamb

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at