ITHACA, N.Y.—With her recent election to the city’s highest office still in the rear view mirror, Ithaca Mayor Laura Lewis announced that she will not be seeking to run again for the position in 2023.

The announcement was wedged into a lengthy State of the City of Ithaca address Lewis delivered at Common Council’s first meeting of the new year on Wednesday, and raised the eyebrows of at least several members of Common Council as they listened. 

“For the past five years, it has been my privilege and continues to be my greatest honor to serve the city I love as council member and now as Mayor,” said Lewis. “I look forward to the many challenges and opportunities we will face together throughout 2023. However, I am announcing tonight that I will not be seeking reelection to the position of mayor.”

But Lewis provided little in the way of her reasoning for choosing to step aside come 2024. Instead, Lewis’s 15-minute oration touched on the city’s relatively recent return to in-person operations last spring, and the continually evolving fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic and its effects on city operations. High praises were reserved for city staff, often unknown and uncredited figures Lewis thanked for keeping the city running.

“Ithaca is not alone in feeling the ongoing human and financial strains of the pandemic,” Lewis said. “We are, however, unique — or so I believe — in that city staff have demonstrated extraordinary dedication, resilience and creativity.”

Many questions remain in the air, such as if Lewis will run for a seat on Common Council, or if she will set aside any aim of holding public office. 

With Lewis declining to seek reelection, the runways are open for campaign announcements for Mayor of Ithaca. The New Year will also see all 10 seats on Ithaca’s Common Council up for election simultaneously, setting up the makings of a potentially major shake up of city government. 

Lewis’ ascension to Mayor came at the start of 2022, when former Mayor Svante Myrick left in the middle of a four year term he was elected to serve and appointed Lewis as Acting Mayor to for the remainder of 2022, and with her win in November Lewis will serve out the remainder of that four year term. 

Lewis inherited — among other challenges — a city staff battling low morale and burnout, an administration that had committed itself to the highly complicated and ambitious initiatives of Reimagining Public Safety and the Ithaca Green New Deal, and an uncertain economic climate.

Concluding her address, Lewis shared a quote from Michelle Obama that she says has served as a guiding principle for her: “Lead with hope, never fear.” 

“I am optimistic and hopeful as we welcome in the New Year,” said Lewis.

Jimmy Jordan

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