'The senator for Cayuga County:' May takes ceremonial oath at Auburn council meeting

Robert Harding

January 20, 2023

Originally published in auburnpub.com on January 20, 2023.

Auburn Mayor Michael Quill officiates a ceremonial swearing-in for Senator Rachel May at Memorial City Hall.

AUBURN — It was a ceremonial swearing-in ceremony but also an opportunity for state Sen. Rachel May to show how committed she is to ensuring that Cayuga County is well represented in Albany. 

Auburn Mayor Michael Quill administered the oath of office to May, D-Syracuse, at the beginning of the Auburn City Council on Thursday. May was officially sworn in at the state Capitol when the legislative session began earlier this month. 

After the brief ceremony, May outlined her priorities and expressed excitement about representing the city and county in the state Senate. 

For the first time in more than two decades, all of Cayuga County is in one state Senate district. It has been divided into two or three districts for much of the 21st century, but a court-appointed special master tasking with redrawing the maps for the next 10 years placed Cayuga County in a district, the 48th, with most of Onondaga County and the city of Syracuse. 

"I take that as a real responsibility — that I am the senator for Cayuga County — but also as an opportunity because it gives me the chance to bring everybody together from across the county to deal with a lot of the issues that are faced by the county," May said. 

One of those issues is water quality. May is aware of the situation involving the Owasco Lake Watershed. Local governments have been urging the state to take action on proposed rule changes for the watershed, but the state Department of Health has delayed that process. 

There have been renewed calls for the state to update the rules and regulations after high levels of disinfection byproducts were detected in the city of Auburn's water supply. The city council passed a new resolution at Thursday's meeting urging the governor to get the rules and regulations approved, as well as start a Total Maximum Daily Load plan for the lake.

May told the city council that watershed governance "is going to be a big focus for me." She praised the city's work on watershed-related matters and recalled hearing from many voters that their biggest issue is water quality. 

A new leadership post will put May in a position to advance policies that could benefit Auburn and Syracuse, the two cities in her district. She has been named chair of the Senate Cities II Committee, which oversees issues affecting cities outside of New York City, mainly those in upstate. 

"In that capacity, I really want to be looking at the challenges and opportunities that our cities have in common," she said. "We have a lot of cities that share some problems, like concentrated poverty, poorly resourced schools, food deserts and transportation deserts. But also some wonderful strengths, like the new American populations in our upstate cities." 

May is also chair of the Legislative Commission on Rural Resources, which issues recommendations to the state Legislature on policies and other actions that could boost rural areas. 

With Auburn as one of the population centers in the district, May plans to be a frequent visitor. She will also maintain a presence in the city by opening an office and hiring a Cayuga County outreach staffer. 

The swearing-in ceremony was a start. Quill, who has served as the city's mayor for 15 years, could not remember if the city council ever hosted a similar event in the past. 

"Thank you for the honor and thank you for thinking of Auburn and Cayuga County," he said.