Syracuse Mayor Stephanie Miner isn’t afraid to say what she’s thinking. Take her decision to publish a letter in The New York Times in 2013 criticizing Gov. Andrew Cuomo for not doing enough to address the dire financial condition of many of the state’s cities. As a result, she has become a de facto spokesperson for many of New York’s struggling localities. Like Syracuse, they have had to cut staff and other expenses as revenues continue to fall. Miner, who has handily won both her mayoral elections, also credits her candor for her popularity back home. “I have a philosophy that not everybody has to agree with your decisions,” she says, “but if they understand why you’re making them, they can have respect for them and we can all move forward.”
Politics runs in her blood. Both of Miner’s grandmothers were politically active during a time when few women ventured into politics. As a kid, she went to political rallies, stuffed envelopes and watched Barbara Jordan, the first black woman elected to the U.S. Congress from the South, on TV. Before becoming mayor in 2009, Miner served on the city council for seven years, where she helped pass legislation that promises free or reduced tuition to students who graduate from city high schools.