ITHACA, N.Y. — With Acting Mayor Laura Lewis’ victory on Nov. 8, she’s announced that she will shed her status as Fifth Ward Alderperson, and that a search is underway to fill the impending vacancy on Common Council. 

When Lewis was selected by former Mayor Svante Myrick to Serve as Acting Mayor, she also retained her seat representing Ithaca’s Fifth Ward on the Common Council in accordance with city code. The City of Ithaca announced that Lewis will resign from Common Council on Dec. 8 in order to “transition into the role of Mayor of the City of Ithaca.”

The process of filling an absence on Common Council is by appointment, and resembles a hiring process to fill a job opening more than it does a democratic selection of representation. 

In accordance with the Council’s rules of procedure, a “Selection Committee” will be formed composed of the Mayor, an Alderperson of the Mayor’s choosing, and the other Alderperson from the Ward in which the vacancy has opened on Common Council — so Alderperson Robert Cantelmo, in this instance. Lewis has not yet announced which Alderperson she has chosen to serve on the selection committee.

The committee will review letters of interest and resumes submitted by Fifth Ward residents interested in serving on council. Those interested have until Dec. 14 to submit their documents to the City Clerk’s Office, physically or digitally. The selection committee will then interview these applicants, and ultimately make a recommendation to Common Council, which will vote to decide on appointing the candidate or not. 

The Council’s Rules of Procedure do not specify that the Selection Committee’s meetings will be public, though Cantelmo confirmed with The Ithaca Voice that it was his understanding they would be conducted publicly, as they have been previously. 

The appointment process played out in 2021 when former Alderperson Steve Smith resigned from Common Council, which resulted in Alderperson Patrick Mehler being appointed to represent the City of Ithaca’s Fourth Ward on council.

Common Council adopted a new set of ward boundaries that come into effect on Jan. 1, 2023, but applicants seeking to fill the vacancy must reside in the current Fifth Ward district, which encompasses a large portion of the Fall Creek Neighborhood, as well as Cornell’s Campus and student housing complexes. 

The appointee will serve until December 31, 2023 from the day they are approved by Common Council.

Jimmy Jordan

Jimmy Jordan is a general assignment reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact him at Connect with him on Twitter @jmmy_jrdn