November 27, 2009
Syracuse mayor-elect has roots in Cortland County
Photo provided by Stephanie Miner
Stephanie Miner is shown in the center of this undated photo talking to on the street is in downtown Syracuse; talking to residents about Armory Square and the future of downtown.
Syracuse Mayor-elect Stephanie Miner says she developed her passion for politics while growing up in Syracuse and Cortlandville, as she spent time with her politically-active grandmother.
Miner’s grandmother, Betty Cooney, was active in the Syracuse City Democratic Party. Cooney would take her to political rallies, ask her to stuff envelopes and listen to elected officials’ speeches with her. At first Miner thought these activities were just part of a typical day with her grandmother.
“As I got older I realized that it was important to stand up for progress and justice, and if you didn’t then it wouldn’t happen,” Miner, 39, said Tuesday from her office in Syracuse.
Miner, a Democrat, was elected mayor Nov. 3 and will become the first female mayor of Syracuse.
She received 50 percent of the vote to 39 percent for Republican Steve Kimatian. She is an attorney who was first elected to the Common Council as a councilor-at-large in 2001.
Miner was born in Syracuse, and her parents moved to a house at 3 Crestwood Court in Cortlandville when she was about 6 years old.
“It was a good experience,” she said of growing up in Cortland County. “I had a lot of supportive friends and teachers.”
As a child she swam competitively for the Cortland YMCA team. She later played field hockey at Homer Junior High School and Homer High School.
She said she was also president of her class in her junior and senior year before graduating in 1988. Her classmates voted her most likely to be successful.
“I don’t know if being mayor of Syracuse is succeeding. I think it is but I’m not sure,” Miner said.
Miner said her highest priorities in governing Syracuse are education, neighborhood quality of life and public education. She wants to look to the city’s higher learning institutions as a catalyst for job creation and work toward community policing by building relationships between community members and the police force to lower the city’s crime rate.
“We need to have a system that has better results because the system we have isn’t working,” she said of the public education system.
Miner said she thinks most innovative practices in government are occurring at the city level.
She said she plans to follow the models of New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Newark’s Corey Booker. Both have had a positive influence on public inner-city schools, and Booker has helped to lower the crime rate in Newark, she said.
Miner received a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science from Syracuse University. She graduated from the University of Buffalo Law School in 1999.
In the 1990s Miner served as regional representative for former Gov. Mario Cuomo. After graduating from law school, she practiced labor law at the Syracuse firm Bitman and King, where she later became a partner.
She was re-elected to the Syracuse Common Council in 2005. Speculation grew about her possibly running for mayor, as Mayor Matt Driscoll reached his two-term limit.
Miner left her job last March to run for mayor. She defeated Joe Nicoletti in a Democratic primary.
She is married to Jack Mannion.
Linda Lenhard, Miner’s trigonometry teacher at Homer High School, remembers taking note of Miner’s passion for politics during conversations they had during and after class.
“I’m not surprised. She was very passionate about politics and wanting to do the right thing, and I just knew that that’s the direction she would go in,” said Lenhard, who retired in 2003.
Martin Sweeney, Miner’s former U.S. history teacher at Homer Junior High School, remembers Miner’s tendency to express her views.
“I guess I figured that she would go into law because she was never reticent to share her views about history and current events,” Sweeney said. “I guess I never dreamed that she would be the first female mayor of Syracuse.”
Sweeney, who is now retired and serving as Homer’s town historian, said Homer Academy was considered a very progressive school when it allowed female students to attend in 1822. Most schools only allowed boys at the time.
“I’m glad we’re still churning out good female citizens,” Sweeney said.
Miner’s focus is not on being the city’s first female mayor.
“I ran to be the first Stephanie Miner elected to the city of Syracuse and it’s a pretty great feeling,” she said.
“I’ve always thought there’s two types of people in government, politicians and public servants,” said Sweeney. “Time will tell which one she’s going to be. I hope she becomes a public servant.”
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