Local Influence

The new mayor highlights the number of alumni in Syracuse city and Onondaga County government.

 Mayor Ben Wals
Mayor Ben Walsh

In November, voters of Syracuse elected the first independent mayor in the city’s last 100 years. Walsh, running without major party backing, promised a “grand experiment to test whether or not we can set aside politics and instead work together to make policy that improves the lives of our city’s residents.” One early success was his first proposed budget, formulated in collaboration with the city’s Common Council and then approved without revision.

Since earning a Maxwell MPA, Walsh worked in business development, first for the area’s leading business association and then for the city. His election continues a family legacy of sorts. His grandfather was a Syracuse mayor; his father was a long-time U.S. Congressman representing the city.

Sharon Owens headshot
Sharon Owens

Among Walsh’s first appointments was as deputy mayor. Owens is a veteran of nonprofits with emphases on community support and affordable housing, and a recent Syracuse deputy commissioner for neighborhood and business development.

Walsh and Owens are representative of the large number of Maxwell graduates working in local government — for the city or for Onondaga County. A quick study of job and employer titles reveals roughly 20 alumni employed by the City of Syracuse and more than 40 in various capacities for the county. They run a gamut. There is a slight tilt toward economic development and data- and evidence-based government, but, really, they’re everywhere. A sampling follows:

Stephanie Pasquale ’94 BA (PSt)/’97 MPA is Syracuse’s commissioner and Honora Spillane ’09 JD/MPA its deputy commissioner for neighborhood and business development. With them is Eric Ennis ’14 MPA, economic development specialist.

Onondaga County’s deputy executive is William Fisher ’88 MAIR. Ann Rooney ’86 MPA is deputy executive for human services and acting commissioner for children and family services. Within that division, Amy McCluskey ’12 MPA is director of the county Youth Bureau and Jennifer Parmalee ’01 MPA is deputy commissioner for children’s mental health.

Christine Elliott ’11 MPA, formerly with Deloitte, is ty’s new director of administration, overseeing management, budget, finance, and information technology.

Greg Loh ’87 BA (PSc), like Elliott, is a recent Walsh appointee. A former local ad executive, he now serves as the city’s director of city initiatives, in charge of communications, marketing, and public engagement.

Onondaga County’s veteran district attorney is William Fitzpatrick Jr. ’74 BA (PSc). Anthony Johnston ’12 BA (Hist/PSc) is an assistant district attorney for the county.

Martin Skahen ’02 MPA, former chief of staff to the county executive, was appointed last year as director of community development for Onondaga County.

Sarah Merrick ’89 MPA and Daniel Wears ’08 MPA are Onondaga County commissioners of social services and emergency management, respectively. Michele Mignano ’00 MPA and Rustan Petrela ’01 MA (PA) are deputy commissioners of health and facilities management, respectively.

Sam Edelstein ’07 BA (Econ/PSt) and Samantha Linnett ’16 BA (PSt) serve on the city’s Innovation Team — chief data officer and innovation program coordinator, respectively.

Travis Glazier ’13 EMPA is director of the county’s Office of Environment, where Holly Granat ’16 MPA is a policy analyst.


This article appeared in the spring 2018 print edition of Maxwell Perspective © Maxwell School of Syracuse University. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@syr.edu.