Walsh looking forward to transition process to become Syracuse mayor
SYRACUSE, N.Y. —
It wasn't so much confidence as it was calm.
That's what Syracuse Mayor-elect Ben Walsh called the upbeat environment at his election night headquarters Tuesday evening, hours before it became official that he would win the city's highest government seat.
"I felt like — to use a sports reference — we left it all out on the field," Walsh said Wednesday evening to CNYCentral in his first live television interview since claiming victory. "We did everything we could possibly do to put us in a position to win. So I had no regrets. I walked into the room and saw family and friends and saw a great party that I wanted to be a part of."
Walsh said a large contribution to that victory was a broad coalition of voters that rallied around his campaign. Walsh, who ran as an independent, will be the first Syracuse mayor in more than 100 years not aligned with a major political party.
"It transcended political lines. It transcended racial and cultural lines. Everyone was bonded by the desire to see this community move forward," Walsh said.
Walsh acknowledged there are a host of issues he will undoubtedly face when he takes office — from the city's finances, to poverty, to Interstate 81 — but said before he gets to those, he would like to first "lay down the foundation for success."
"I'm going to cast a wide net and find the most talented people I can find to put on my team," Walsh said. "I want it to be a diverse group that reflects the great diversity in our community. I want them to fill some of the gaps that I may have in my own portfolio."
Walsh said he has already been contacted by state and local officials to congratulate him and to offer any assistance during the transition process. He said he was on the phone Wednesday with Gov. Andrew Cuomo's chief of staff and exchanged text messages with Onondaga County Executive Joanie Mahoney and U.S. Rep. John Katko — all figures Walsh stresses are vital to have strong relationships with, since city hall isn't isolated from the rest of the central New York region.
"Our futures are inextricably connected. You can't have successful suburbs without a strong city," Walsh said. "I think most of us understand that. And those of us who are in the city often end up outside of our boundaries for our own reasons. So when people have come up to me during the campaign and said 'I wish I could vote for you but I don't live in the city,' I said 'that's okay.' We're all in the same community and we need to remind ourselves of that. So when we look toward solutions to the problems of the city of Syracuse, those are often times going to be going hand-in-hand with issues outside of the city."
And it's a region that's no stranger to his name. Walsh was elected 56 years after his own grandfather was elected mayor of Syracuse and 29 years after his father was first elected to a local congressional seat he held for two decades.
"Public service is in my DNA and that's why I've always gravitated toward it," Walsh said.
He said he almost surprised even himself when he seriously considered running for the position.
"It was always in the back of my mind, but it wasn't until relatively recently that it was really something I wanted to do," Walsh said.
Walsh defeated Democrat Juanita Perez Williams, Republican Laura Lavine and Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins on Tuesday, capturing 54 percent of the vote.
He will be sworn in Jan. 1, 2018.