Mayor of Ithaca, N.Y., Svante Myrick, who in 2012 was sworn into office as the city’s youngest mayor and first mayor of color, has been appointed by Hobart and William Smith President Mark D. Gearan as the Colleges’ Presidential Fellow for Civic Engagement.
Myrick brings an impressive track record in public service, government administration, leadership and advocacy to the appointment. This year, Myrick will be engaging with the HWS community in a number of ways, including through guest lectures in classes, hosting special events and lectures centered on public service and civic engagement, and working with students, faculty and staff on civic engagement initiatives.
“Hobart and William Smith Colleges are known for our engaged student body and significant commitment to our community,” Gearan says. “Mayor Myrick will bring an added perspective to our classrooms and community discussions. He is an accomplished young leader who brings a wealth of hands-on experience matched by his deep commitment to youth engagement. We are fortunate to have him on our campus this year.”
When Myrick took office as mayor in 2012, he inherited a $3 million deficit, but successfully managed to close the gap with his first budget plan. His first budget included a major overhaul of city government that merged departments and streamlined processes, all while delivering Ithaca’s lowest tax increase since 2000. In his first year of office, his advocacy in Albany and in Washington, D.C., resulted in more than $20 million of grants and awards from state and federal governments.
During his time as mayor, Myrick has also managed to make strides in changing the city’s culture. He transformed the way Ithaca residents view public space by turning his parking spot into a public park, reintroduced fireworks to the city for their 4th of July celebrations, and moved the city into the 21st century by embracing social media and revamping the city’s webpage.
Despite his young age, Myrick had already established himself in politics before being elected mayor. When he was just 20-years-old and still a junior at Cornell University, where he studied communication, Myrick was elected to serve the fourth ward on the Common Council. He held that position for the following four years.
Myrick is also a passionate youth advocate. In 2008, he chaired the committee to create the Ithaca Youth Council. In the same year, he also chaired the Collegetown Implementation Committee, which led to the creation and endorsement of a master plan for promoting development while still preserving neighborhoods in Collegetown.
While studying at Cornell, he was a three-year board member of REACH (Raising Education Attainment Challenge), and tutored underserved young people for eight semesters. He also served as the assistant director of the Young Alumni Programs for Cornell University before resigning his position to run for mayor.
Since becoming mayor, Myrick has continued to work with Ithaca’s youth, serving as an apprenticeship coordinator with The Learning Web, which provides hands-on experiential education for young people.
Raised with his three siblings by a hard-working single mother, Myrick attributes much of his work ethic to his mother and his upbringing. Myrick also credits his high school teacher, Hobart graduate Jonathan Sherry ’96, with providing critical guidance. It was Sherry who encouraged Myrick to apply to Cornell.
In 2013, Myrick served as guest of the HWS President’s Forum Speaker Series, an ongoing program that invites distinguished speakers to the Hobart and William Smith campus.