After serving the City of Ithaca for nearly three years, Alderperson Eddie Rooker ’09 (D-4th Ward) attended his final Common Council meeting Wednesday night. Rooker recently announced that he would resign from his position on the Common Council to attend law school at New York University.
Rooker was set to attend Cornell Law School this year after being waitlisted at NYU. But after he was accepted off of the waitlist, Rooker decided to cut his final term on the Common Council short.
“I talked with my academic advisors and people on the city council about my options and decided that career-wise and academically, NYU was a better option,” Rooker said.
When Rooker was elected to the council in 2009, some worried he would follow in the footsteps of his predecessor, Dave Gelinas ’07. After two years representing the 4th Ward — which includes West Campus, Cascadilla Park and most of Collegetown — Gelinas stepped down from his post.
At the time, however, Rooker rejected his comparison to Gelinas.
“I don’t have any long term plans outside being a councilor,” Rooker told The Sun in 2009, adding that while some in the past “may have viewed this position as something to have … I see it as a way to make an impact in the community.”
Now, Rooker is two weeks into his fall term at NYU and his dueling commitments in New York City and Ithaca have not affected his job performance, according to fellow council member Ellen McCollister (D-3rd Ward).
“He hasn’t missed a meeting and he’s been fully on top of all his council responsibilities to date. That has been a total non-issue,” McCollister said. “His replacement is a different issue.”
This responsibility falls on the 4th Ward’s Democratic Committee, she said.
Council member Graham Kerslick (D-4th Ward) said that the committee, which includes Kerslick and City of Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick ’09, has met and begun the process of searching for interested candidates, Kerslick said.
The Democratic Committee will appoint an interim representative to fill Rooker’s position until elections in November. “I won’t say we’ve endorsed anyone in particular because we haven’t considered the candidates yet,” Kerslick said. “But I will say we’ve had interest from a number of people.”
Many in the Cornell community hoped Rooker’s election in 2009 would mean greater representation on the Common Council for students living in Collegetown. According to Kerslick, Rooker used his close ties with the University and various community groups to accomplish that goal.
Both Rooker and Graham were adamant in pushing for the creation of a group now known as the Collegetown Neighborhood Council. The council was the result of collaboration between Rooker, Graham and the Student Assembly after students in Collegetown requested a forum at which to voice their questions and concerns to city officials, Kerslick said.
“One of the challenges we face is that students are only here for one or two years, and it’s difficult to make good progress in that time,” he said. “So it’s great to have an ongoing organization that will hopefully contribute to significant change.”
Rooker cited securing the installation of nets under the bridges on Cornell’s campus as another achievement that was important to him during his tenure on the Common Council.
“This is something that they have been talking about for years, decades even,” Rooker said. “I was at Cornell when we had the cluster of suicides and had the opportunity to weigh in ... I’m excited to see that project moving forward.”
At the Common Council meeting Wednesday, council members voiced their appreciation for Rooker and the work he has done over the past three years.
“It was really fun getting to know [Rooker] and realizing how smart and low key he is — but with a wicked sense of humor,” McCollister said.
Rooker said he will proudly reflect on the things he has accomplished during his time in Ithaca.
“There’s too many things to name over my time here that I will think back on and feel very proud about,” Rooker said. “I will definitely be coming back to Ithaca as much as possible because I’m going to miss it.”