SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Mayor Ben Walsh preached optimism, unity and a brighter future when he was sworn in as Syracuse’s 54th mayor Saturday morning.
Walsh delivered his inaugural address at the Landmark Theatre in front of a crowd of about 1,000 people.
In his remarks, he pitched his centrist, apolitical agenda for the city while pledging cooperation and transparency.
“We will follow an inclusive and engaged approach to government,” he said. “And every day we will work to earn and maintain your trust.”
In November, Walsh was elected the first independent mayor of the city in more than 100 years. He won the election on a message of putting aside party politics.
Saturday, he touched on his plans to address poverty, crime, city schools and fiscal problems. And, most frequently, he pledged a partnership with fellow community leaders.
In attendance were U.S. Rep. John Katko and Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney. Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul made the opening remarks from the stage. She said Walsh’s election marked a “new era” and a “new beginning” for Syracuse.
Syracuse’s previous mayor, Stephanie Miner, spent years openly feuding with Katko, Mahoney and Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Walsh has insisted he will end those divisions.
Walsh promised a city where everyone pulled in the same direction to make progress, from government officials to business owners to everyday citizens.
“People all along the political spectrum want open, honest conversation, not partisan bickering,” Walsh said. “They want new ideas and collaborative solutions, not razor-thin mandates to govern from the extreme edges of society.”
Among the specifics in his address were goals for the city’s schools and a plan to address the city’s’ financial woes.
Walsh said he will hold a fiscal summit at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University where he will convene anchor institutions to find a way to improve the city’s fiscal situation.
On education, he promised to push the graduation rate over 80 percent and said he would like to see Syracuse listed among the best urban school districts in the country.
He expressed continuing support for the community grid option to replace Interstate 81. He pledged economic growth as a path out of poverty.
“A segregated city that concentrates wealth in some places and poverty in others is not a modern, progressive city,” he said.
Walsh drew inspiration in his speech from Rolland B. Marvin, the 42nd mayor of Syracuse. Marvin shepherded the city through the Great Depression and, in his obituary, was called “the mayor who got things done.”
He also cited former Post-Standard columnist Sean Kirst. In his 2016 book, “The Soul of Central New York,” Kirst described Central New York’s people as its greatest resource. Walsh agreed.
Prior to his speech, Walsh took the oath of office with his wife, Lindsay, and daughters, Gabrielle and Breena, holding the bible. His parents, Jim and Dede, watched from the front rows of the theater. City Court Judge Derrek Thomas administered the oath.
After that, Walsh swore in Deputy Mayor Sharon Owens.
The inauguration was initially scheduled for the steps of City Hall. Organizers moved it indoors due to the extreme cold.
Walsh started on the job this week. He was officially sworn in during a private ceremony at City Hall on New Year’s Eve.