September 9, 2012

Democrats Nominate Rochester Native to Fill Eddie Rooker’s ’09 Common Council Seat

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Stephen J. Smith, a 2009 graduate of the State University of New York at Geneseo, was nominated Friday to run for alderperson of the Fourth Ward of Ithaca.

Eddie Rooker ’09 resigned from the seat on the Common Council after he was accepted off the waitlist at the New York University School of Law. He is cutting his term short by a year and leaving his seat vacant.

The Tompkins County Democratic Committee, which nominated Smith, also recommended that Smith fill Rooker’s vacant seat until elections are held in November. At that point, if Smith is on the council, hewill have to run again to complete the remaining year in Rooker’s term.

If he wins the election in November, Smith hopes to run for a four-year term as alderperson in the November 2014 election, he said in an interview with The Sun.

A Rochester, N.Y., native, Smith has been active in community outreach and said he will emphasize youth programs as well as improve town-gown relationships in Ithaca.

“I see a lot of what’s going on in the city, and I want to have a positive impact on it,” Smith said.

The Fourth Ward includes Cascadilla Park, West Campus and most of Collegetown. Smith said he is ready to represent the community of students.

“I understand a lot of what it is to be a student in a community and [to try] to have a positive relationship with that community,” Smith said.

Common Council member Graham Kerslick (D-4th Ward) said that many students are involved in community groups such as the Collegetown Neighborhood Council.

“I think it’s important to involve students in the community,” Kerslick said.

Although Smith is not a Cornell graduate, Kerslick said he does not think that it is a “disadvantage that [Smith] is not a recent alumnus or current student at Cornell.”

Representatives need to consider the needs of the entire constituency, which includes but is not limited to students, Kerslick said.

Kathy Zahler, director of communications for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee, said the committee interviewed several candidates, many of whom dropped out, before choosing Smith to run for Common Council.

“[Smith] seemed to be the best candidate who could provide the necessary amount of time” for Common Council, Zahler said.

Smith earned a degree in business administration in 2009 from SUNY Geneseo. Previously, he has worked with the Democratic Party of Virginia and the New York State Senate Majority Information Services. He also served as finance director for the campaign of Democrat Nate Shinagawa ’05 M.A. ’09, who is running to represent New York’s 23rd Congressional District, which includes Tompkins County.

Original Author: Caroline Flax