I think, deep down, we all knew that one day it would happen. Svante Myrick has quietly mounted his horse and is about to ride out of town into the sunset. He won’t be Ithaca’s any more.
We’ll be reading about him from afar from now on. He’s destined for big things. I picture him in a cabinet post in maybe ten years, unless Donald Trump is re-elected in 2024, in which case I might bump into him in the refugee stream heading through the Montana woods into Saskatchewan. The border is pretty porous out there.
I met him once, during his first campaign in 2011, as he was walking from house to house in my neighborhood, knocking on doors as I imagine a young Hubert Humphrey did when running for mayor of Minneapolis. I was on the sidewalk with our dog and I recognized him from a photograph in this paper. We had a very pleasant exchange. Since then, I’ve reached out half a dozen times, looking for a quote for various articles, and he’s never responded. I prefer to think that his administrative assistant Annie Sherman is shielding him from pesky quasi-journalists, rather than that he might be stewing about various gentle but cheap shots I’ve taken in this column over the years.
Being a target is part of a politician’s job, but mostly, it’s been about his age. I mean, the guy’s been mayor for a decade and I’m still almost twice as old as him. The fact is, though, that he’s been outstanding. Sure, it’s been fun and exciting to have had a rock star at the helm, and I haven’t always agreed with how things (like the police overhaul) have been handled, but overall he’s really done an exceptional job.
One of the many, many, many things that is annoying about Facebook is that any time something new happens in this town a couple dozen old farts post that Ithaca’s been going straight to the dogs ever since the Kresge’s closed on State Street. To them I say look around. I walk all over this city and it’s thriving. Thousands of new affordable housing units, which we needed. There hadn’t been any significant net new homes since the 1960s. There’s been an astonishing amount of new construction and development, and the city feels vibrant and busy and healthy. Mayor Myrick steered us out of a budget deficit, doggedly chased federal and state money, and pushed public and private investment in everything from the Waterfront Trail to the Commons to the Water Treatment Plant.
About once a week, I walk Curly the Dog from West Buffalo Street up the hill to College Avenue. I like to fantasize during the climb that it’s how Sir Edmund Hillary must have felt while walking his dog up Mount Everest. Collegetown is unrecognizable from the days when I used to haunt the place in the 1970s, and while I will always feel that tearing down the Royal Palm was a crime against nature, the fact is that a lot of those old buildings and boarding houses were run-down fire traps. New construction is a sign of vitality. Time marches on.
There’s been no bigger booster of Ithaca than Svante Myrick, and he’s become an integral part of our brand. It’s been a symbiotic relationship. Ambitious young man, fresh out of college is elected mayor of a small city and builds a reputation over the course of ten years. City rides coattails of a charismatic young man on the rise. Both sides have benefited, but it couldn’t last forever.
Anyway, it seems that this is the point in our narrative where the traveler from Earlville, New York, is leaning down from his saddle and saying, “you’ve always had it in you, kid. You don’t need me any more.” The story always ends here, and they never tell you what happens next, but what I guess we’re in for is a new, blander era of competence, much like when the Cuomo Boys rode off into the sunset last year. (Of course, they were being chased into the sunset by an angry mob of pitchfork-wielding townsfolk.) It’s going to take some getting used to.
I wish he wasn’t going, but upon sober reflection the time feels exactly right for him to move on to the next chapter. Being Mayor-for-Life was never his destiny. Good luck and happy trails, Mayor Myrick.