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Ithaca Common Council meets for first time under restructured government

Phoebe Taylor-Vuolo
Ithaca Mayor Robert Cantelmo met with the common council Wednesday, for the first time in 2024.

Ithaca Mayor Robert Cantelmo was sworn in Wednesday and will be the first mayor to serve under a newly restructured city government.

The new system means Ithaca’s city government will be led mainly by a city manager, rather than the mayor.

Deb Mohlenhoff, the new city manager, will take on many of the responsibilities previously held by the mayor. Mohlenhoff was appointed to the city manager position by the common council last year.

As mayor, Cantelmo will be in charge of presiding over the council, appointing department heads and developing and presenting the annual budget.

“The role of the mayor going forward is really going to be that of the majority leader,” Cantelmo said. “Of driving policy, of building consensus, of working with council and being that bridge between the legislative body and the administration of the city.”

Cantelmo met with the new city manager and common council for the first time in 2024. During his State of the City address, he said he hoped to work on the lack of affordable housing, as well as build opportunities for job growth and increased sustainability in the city.

“Our city has turned a major corner, and we are poised to usher in a new era of efficient government, of responsive government, of transparent government,” Cantelmo said. “Our city manager and administration have my full support and I am eager to partner hand-in-glove with them on advancing the interests of our community.”

Mohlenhoff unveiled her plan for the first100 days as city manager during the council’s meeting Wednesday. She said she is excited to see the new government system in action.

“Common council can spend all of their time working on high-level policy, give really clear and concise direction, and then I, as city manager, can take that back to the staff, put implementation plans together,” Mohlenhoff said. “I really see the mayor and myself as a bridge between these two pieces.”

In addition to the changes in government structure, half of Ithaca’s common council members are newly elected, after several incumbents were unseated in November.