Christina Sauve is the CEO at Cooperative Federal, a community development credit union with four offices in Syracuse. She also serves on the board of directors of Home HeadQuarters. In her spare time, one of her passions is learning the kanien’kéha (Mohawk) language, which she first started studying 20 years ago and picked up in earnest last year. She lives in North Syracuse with her husband and child.
Were you born and raised in CNY?
I was born and raised in CNY, specifically on the near West Side in Syracuse and in Solvay, and a lot of my family lives in the area. I went away to California for college; I was at Stanford University in the Bay Area and I absolutely loved California. I came home after graduation, in part because I wanted to spend time with my sister who was born just a couple of months before I left for college.
Why do you choose to stay and make your home here?
I always thought I’d spend a year or two back in Syracuse and then return to the Bay Area. I felt like to be “successful” I had to leave. But another part of me always felt a connection to this area, especially as a Mohawk woman with deep ties to the region. One day while looking at job ads, I saw a listing for “Activists Posing as Bankers” using the tools of finance to work for social justice and vibrant Syracuse neighborhoods — and I was hooked. I started working at Cooperative Federal as the executive assistant in 2005, and I’m still there to this day, though now as CEO! Just a few months after finding my professional calling at the credit union, I met my now husband. I feel rooted in this area through family, history, and my work.
What does your “good life” look like and how does CNY play a role?
I feel so very fortunate to be near family, to have an incredibly short daily commute to work — leaving more time to relax, cook a meal, or just get outside and to be able to afford to buy a home, which would have been entirely impossible in the Bay Area. I love getting outdoors and there’s no shortage of little parks or green areas to explore.
What do you like most about living here?
There are so many people who I find inspiring, working to make our community a stronger and more equitable place. And because it’s a small community — I can actually meet those inspiring people and learn from them! I also love being near family while also being a reasonable drive from cities like Montreal for weekend trips.
What makes CNY different from other places you’ve lived?
The only other place I’ve lived for an extended period of time was Palo Alto, CA; I’ve also lived a few months each in Washington D.C. and in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I love the annual cycle of the seasons, and the feeling of renewal you get from the spring sunshine after a long winter! It’s also very green — grasses, trees, woodlands — in comparison.
How would you spend a day off in the area?
It’s a Saturday, and I’ll head to the Regional Market and grab a donut to eat while I pick up produce and other goodies for the week. Then, we’ll head off to the Rosamond Gifford Zoo for a couple of hours, then maybe head downtown, get some food and walk along the [Onondaga] Creekwalk. Basically — eat good food and meander around mostly outside!
Go-to place to eat?
With a six-year-old and my husband’s and my own busy work schedules, we tend toward take-out! Our go-tos lately are Bamboo House, or I might bring home something from Mr. Biggs Restaurant.
First place you take out-of-town friends or family?
To the grocery store to stock up on salt potatoes and Hofmann’s hot dogs! My father once brought salt potatoes in his carry-on luggage on a visit to family in Arizona. The bag of salt threw TSA for a loop for a minute.
Each season has its charm, but I especially love the summer sunshine and warmth.
Favorite way to take advantage of our beautiful outdoors?
Exploring parks and green areas with my kiddo and husband, looking for good fishing or frog-hunting spots or hunting for edible wild berries.
A place or business you think is underrated or under-discovered?
I hope people are discovering the new Salt City Market at 484 S. Salina Street! This has been years in the making and features an array of cuisines from local entrepreneurs. It’s an incredible place.
Favorite memory related to living in CNY?
Growing up with lots of family around.
How would you describe CNY in a few words?
Community, Orange, challenges and opportunities.
What do you think we take for granted here?
Affordability of housing and so much natural beauty in city and state parks nearby.
Best way to get to know the area better?
I’m a fan of walking around places to get to know them better. The Onondaga Historical Association has some info on walking tours for a perspective on how our history has shaped our community.
Myth about CNY or Upstate you’d like to dispel?
I think there are a lot of misconceptions about the City of Syracuse itself, from folks who may live in the surrounding areas and almost never venture into the city — that it’s dangerous, that kind of stereotype rooted in bias; or that there’s not much to do. I love Syracuse — I love our endurance and grit (you have to be strong to get through 120 inches of snow a year!), I appreciate the racial and ethnic diversity of our community, and I feel there’s always a lot going on if you know where to look!
What do you think people outside of CNY should know about living here?
Yes, it DOES snow that much, and you’re on Haudenosaunee land.
You can live your best life in Central New York too!
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