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McMahon gets a year to show voters how he’ll run Onondaga County

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Ryan McMahon at the Onondaga County Legislature.

Ryan McMahon is the new Onondaga County executive. He took over the position from Joanie Mahoney. The 38-year-old Republican and father of three, who grew up in the city of Syracuse, will get the chance to show the public what his administration looks like before voters choose a candidate for the office next year. 

An early test for McMahon came in 2003. After working at an internship in Albany for an assemblyman, McMahon realized he wanted to run for office. The first time he did, in a race for a seat on the Syracuse Common Council, he lost.

“Pretty much to that time, life was pretty easy for me," McMahon said. "I was always good enough academically to get by and stay above the radar. I played sports and played soccer in college. Had lots of friends. Hadn’t experienced any sort of failure, let alone in a public way. After I lost that race I was heartbroken.”

But that didn’t stop him from running again and two years later, he won the seat. McMahon said politics is about timing. He said he became chairman of the legislature, his first day on the job, six years ago, because of timing. And he said he was prepared to run for county executive if Mahoney was not going to in 2019.

“It’s an opportunity where I know how the legislature works," McMahon said. "I know where the money is. I know policy. I understand how the executive needs to work through the legislative branch to accomplish their goals.”

And in terms of his goals, infrastructure, particularly with sewers, is at the top of his list. There have been overflow issues at county facilities but McMahon said the problem is broken pipes, owned by the towns, villages and the city of Syracuse.

“That’s something that really presents a good consolidation opportunity where we take over the pipes from all these other governments and fix them,” McMahon said.

McMahon grew up with Syracuse Mayor Ben Walsh and Walsh said professionally, they have always worked well together.

“We haven’t always agreed," Walsh said. "I’m sure we won’t always agree going forward. The fact is we have a comfort level with each other that will ensure that where we don’t agree, we can move beyond that and continue to stay at the table and get things done."

Among the items they will likely be working on is negotiating a new sales tax agreement between Syracuse and Onondaga County.

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.