Cherelle Parker at a street renaming ceremony in December 2021

City Council Majority Leader Cherelle Parker is resigning her seat in advance of a likely run for Philly mayor. She’s the fourth member of the legislative body to resign, a requirement for city elected officials seeking higher office.

The announcement, made official in a letter to Council President Darrell Clarke, comes one day after former colleagues Derek Green and Maria Quiñones Sánchez resigned to launch their campaigns for mayor, a few weeks after Allan Domb started the City Council mayoral exodus.

“My policy priorities have always been driven by the close connection I share with my neighbors, the deep knowledge of the neighborhoods and communities they live in, and my own lived experiences as a Black woman growing up in this city on food stamps and public schools,” Parker wrote in the letter.

Parker’s name has long been in the mix for mayoral contention. She leaves her post as District 9’s representative as she is mulling the chance to become the first woman to be Philly’s chief executive.

How’d Parker reach this point? What’s her agenda? Here’s what we know.

Parker’s path: From an internship to Harrisburg, then to City Hall

Parker is Northwest Philly born and raised.

After her mother died when Parker was 11, she was raised by her grandparents, and she often cites her grandmother’s influence. As a teenager, Parker ran track and was a cheerleader for the Oak Lane Wildcats football team.

In 1990, when Parker was in high school, a speaking contest sponsored by then-Councilmember Augusta Clark changed her life. At the suggestion of her English teacher, Parker recited a speech called “The Power of Writing, Reading & Books” — and won the top prize.

The ostensible reward was $1,000 and a trip to Senegal and Morocco. But the lasting prize for Parker was being introduced to then-District 9 Councilmember Marian Tasco. Tasco brought on the highschooler as an intern, and kept working with her as Parker attended Lincoln University, where she majored in English.

After graduating, Parker briefly taught high school English in South Jersey, before coming home to Tasco’s office in 1995. She joined Tasco’s Council staff, starting with public relations and then moving through a variety of roles based on the projects at hand.

A decade into this role, a Pa. House seat opened up and Parker successfully ran to represent the 200th Legislative District. She served in Harrisburg from 2005 to 2015 — leading the Philadelphia Delegation for the second half of her tenure — until Tasco retired from City Council.

In 2015, Parker campaigned for and successfully won election to her former boss’ Council seat.

After former Councilmember Bobby Henon was indicted on federal corruption charges in early 2020, Parker unseated him as majority leader.

Her most recent move was into the leading role for the Delaware River Port Authority. In early 2021, Parker became the first woman to chair the DRPA Board of Commissioners after winning an internal election held after former chair Ryan Boyer resigned.

Parker’s politics, past and present

Parker touts a few policies she helped pass during her time in the Pa. House:

  • The Philadelphia Tax Fairness Package — This was a suite of bills addressed towards property taxes in Philly, including new methods for collecting delinquent payments, starting up the LOOP program in support of homeowners, and more.
  • The Philadelphia Cigarette Tax — Initially created to aid the school district in a deep financial shortfall, Parker led the Philadelphia Delegation in getting the policy passed out of the General Assembly.
  • Act 75 of 2012 — This statute in the state judicial code permitted experts on sexual assult to testify to help the court and jury understand “the dynamics of sexual violence, victim responses to sexual violence and the impact of sexual violence on victims during and after being assaulted.”

On City Council, Parker in 2017 joined Council President Darrell Clarke in forwarding policy to allocate funds for the Restore Repair Renew loan program, a $40 million bond-backed investment meant to help city residents fund property maintenance.

She has long highlighted the challenges faced by “middle neighborhoods,” a term that refers to the working-to-middle class areas that make up the bulk of her district.

Speaking of her political base, Parker is joined in concern about middle neighborhoods by U.S. Representative Dwight Evans, who also hails from Northwest Philly. They’re both key members of the Northwest Coalition, a group of Black elected officials and political players who have for decades coordinated efforts around elections and endorsements.

Parker’s latest headline-grabbing idea was her Philadelphia Neighborhood Safety and Community Policing Plan, which includes hiring 300 police officers, funding PPD recruitment, funding more security cameras, and other goals.

She also expressed an interest in searching for a constitutionally sound version of “stop and frisk,” as noted in an interview with WPHT’s Dom Giordano. She had previously called out the way Philly police implemented the practice as unconstitutional.

“We don’t have the luxury right now of not exploring every tool that we possibly can to make sure that Philadelphia is a safer and cleaner city that is providing access to economic opportunity for all,” Parker told Giordano.

Fundraising status

According to the most recent public campaign finance records, Parker has $218k on hand to begin campaigning.

That’s roughly middle of the pack for likely mayoral candidates and the second most for current likely candidates, trailing Allan Domb’s $299k war chest.

Read Parker’s full resignation letter below.

Jordan Levy is a general assignment reporter at Billy Penn, always aiming to help Philadelphians share their stories. Formerly, he has worked at Document Journal, n+1 Magazine, and The New Republic. He...