Mayor Jim Kenney

Mayor Jim Kenney

Chris Montgomery/Billy Penn

Jim Kenney’s staff picks so far: The common threads, and the big open question

What connects these people? Is Jim Kenney leaning on certain characteristics for the people he chooses for his mayoral team?

Jim Kenney’s administration is starting to take shape. Three weeks out from his mayoral inauguration, Kenney has appointed more than 30 people to city positions, ranging from the police commissioner to the airport CEO to a new chief diversity and inclusion officer. 

So who are these people? What connects them? Is Kenney leaning on certain characteristics for the people he chooses for his mayoral team?

Here are few common themes and questions regarding Kenney’s staff.

Longtime Philadelphians

Mayor Michael Nutter went looking to other cities for many of his appointments, especially the  most prominent ones. His first managing director was the well-traveled Camille Barnett, who at the time of her appointment had never lived in Philly or even its suburbs. His pick for police commissioner was Charles Ramsey, a Chicago native who had most recently worked in Washington, D.C.

For those two positions, Kenney has picked two people with extensive experience in Philadelphia. Mike DiBerardinis, his managing director, has worked for decades for the city in the Department of Parks and Recreation. Richard Ross, Kenney’s pick for police commissioner, has been in the Philadelphia Police Department for 26 years.

Most of Kenney’s other appointments have spent at least the majority of their working lives in Philadelphia and have graduated from schools like Temple, Villanova and La Salle.

Diversity

As David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the Committee of Seventy, has followed Kenney’s appointments, he has thought about new Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau. Trudeau has taken a strategy of making diverse appointments, with the mantra of “This is 2015. This is the way we do business now.”

“I think there’s some of that in Jim’s selections,” Thornburgh said.

Kenney has appointed Sozi Tulante to be his city solicitor. Tulante is an immigrant from Zaire, now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo. Nina Ahmad, the new deputy mayor for public engagement, serves on President Barack Obama’s Advisory Commission on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 

Women are also well represented. Of the 30-plus positions that have so far been filled, 19 of them are women. Nutter’s administration also had a significant number of women — 24 of the nearly 60 appointed positions he had. Given that Kenney has several more appointments to make, it appears he could exceed that total.

Obama Connections

Ahmad isn’t the only one with Obama experience. Jane Slusser, Kenney’s chief of staff, worked as a deputy field organizer for Obama’s campaign in 2008 and a regional field director in 2012. Stephanie Monahon, chief service officer, was also a field organizer in 2008 and field director in 2012 for Obama. Kenney’s current spokesperson, Lauren Hitt, was a press assistant for Obama’s campaign in 2012.     

The big question

Does Kenney have his own version of David L. Cohen as part of this team? Cohen, Rendell’s chief of staff and now the executive vice president of Comcast, was Ed Rendell’s right-hand man and instrumental in guiding many of the decisions he made. 

“It’s helpful to have somebody that you trust sort of more than life itself who can look you in the eye and tell you that’s a bad idea or that’s good idea,” Thornburgh said. “I don’t know enough about the whole dynamic to know if there is somebody like that. We’ll have to see how that sort of emerges.”  

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