Nina Davis/Sun Photography Editor

The Village of Lansing Office on April 23, used as a polling station for the trustee elections.

April 24, 2024

Village of Lansing Elects Uncontested Trustees Amid Low Turnout

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Residents of the Village of Lansing showed up to the polls on Tuesday, April 23 to elect representatives to the two-year term trustee position. 

The newly elected trustees — who ran unopposed — are incumbent Susan Ainslie and newcomer Kathleen Yen. Both are members of the Community Party — which, according to its website, prioritizes maintaining the Village of Lansing as a “liveable place in which to reside and work” and labels itself as independent of national political parties. Yen will replace current trustee Drew Riedl who did not run for re-election. 

The newly elected trustees will become members of the village board, which regulates the procedures and organization of village government, adopts a budget and manages zoning activity and properties in the village. The village board is composed of the mayor and four trustees.

Some community members who voted at the polling station — including Carol and Bill Klepack — were familiar with the candidates running for trustee positions, describing them as active members of the community.

“They are very strong, very principled, very engaged, intelligent people,” Mr. Klepack said.

According to official surveys from the League of Women Voters of Tompkins County, both Ainslie and Yen advocate for a reevaluation of the Village of Lansing Comprehensive Plan — first adopted in 1999, last updated in 2015 and set to expire in 2025 — that lays out objectives for land use and development in the village. 

Village of Lansing Mayor Ronny Hardaway told The Sun that no major changes would be made to the plan aside from refinements related to local natural areas and helping businesses. 

He explained that Carolyn Greenwald ’94 J.D. ’98, Lansing’s deputy mayor, is heading the revisiting effort by organizing a committee of a couple of trustees, Planning Board members, Board of Zoning Appeals members and community members. 

Many residents at the polls expressed they were interested in maintaining the status quo, explaining that they were satisfied with the village services and wanted the village to stay the way it has operated.

“Just keeping it the way it is,” said Roy Park, a 25-year resident of Lansing, when asked what he thought was the most pressing issue for Lansing residents. 

According to a representative of the Tompkins County Board of Elections, as of April 22 at 10 a.m., there were 1,957 eligible voters in the Village of Lansing. Of those voters, only 75 participated in the election, representing just 3.8 percent of registered voters in the village. The turnout represents a decrease in the total number of votes cast, 146, compared to the 2023 trustee elections in which 174 votes were cast. 

In general, residents expressed contentment with the state of village politics. Bryan Dietz, a Lansing resident, was among those who said that the village government serves its residents well, lending to uneventful politics.

“The most important thing about small-town municipal government is that everything runs smoothly, and you don’t have a lot of people constantly arguing over things,” Dietz said. “As far as I can tell, I know I am satisfied. The other people I know are satisfied — no news is good news. If I want excitement, I will watch soap operas.” 

However, some residents like Mrs. Klepack stressed the disengagement of residents in local elections as a result of the flow of people living in rental units who are not long-term residents of the village and may consequently be less involved in local politics.

“Most people who live in the village don’t even realize it’s a village,” said Mrs. Klepack.

While a majority of voters who spoke with The Sun described the election as a low-stakes, uncontested race, they emphasized the importance of voter engagement in local government. 

“We gotta do this [vote] because sometimes elections are important,” Dietz said.