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The Philadelphia Citizen interviews Rebecca Rhynhart


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Guest Commentary: Why Ed Rendell is For Rhynhart

The former mayor and governor's endorsement includes advice and a challenge on how to govern Philadelphia

Guest Commentary: Why Ed Rendell is For Rhynhart

The former mayor and governor's endorsement includes advice and a challenge on how to govern Philadelphia

After much thought I have decided to endorse Rebecca Rhynhart to be the next Mayor of Philadelphia.

The citizens of Philadelphia have a very important decision to make. Our city has been hit by extraordinary circumstances which could not have been foreseen and which have forced it to the edge of a precipice. Fortunately, an unusually large number of candidates stepped up and entered this campaign with the belief that they could best lead us out of the quagmire we are facing. Based on her experience, her record as an elected official and her personal character, I believe Rebecca Rhynhart is the best choice.

This was not an easy choice because I believe both Allan Domb and Cherelle Parker have been excellent public servants, and as I watched them throughout this campaign, I am convinced they would be good stewards for the city.

It is my strong hope that, whoever wins, he or she will reach out to some of the other candidates and try to form a government made up of what Doris Kearns Goodwin called a “team of rivals” in her book by the same name.

Allan Domb has been an enormously successful self-made businessman and an outstanding councilperson for the last seven years. During his campaign he displayed many important leadership traits and set forth numerous economic development strategies that would create the type of growth and investment Philadelphia needs.

Cherelle Parker served as a legislator in Harrisburg for 10 years (2005 to 2015) and from 2016 to 2022 as a Philadelphia City Councilperson. She has done well in both positions. Cherelle was a great advocate for the city, leaning on her personal experience and political skills, and she could bring this experience to bear in trying to persuade the legislature and City Council to give the City the tools and resources it needs.

Why Rhynhart

In 2008 Rebecca Rhynhart left a well-paid private sector job to work in public service for Philadelphia. Her decision to take a substantial pay cut to work in the public sector demonstrated a strong commitment to the people of Philadelphia. She went to work in Mayor Nutter’s administration first as City Treasurer and then as Budget Director. Mayor Nutter characterizes her work, “Rebecca Rhynhart crafted a budget plan that guided Philadelphia through the worst Recession since the Great Depression. She was relentless in trying to find the choices that would serve our citizens well and protect the city from fiscal danger.”

After Mayor Nutter’s term ended, Rebecca went to work for Mayor Kenney as his Chief Administrative Officer. In early 2017 she decided to run for City Controller taking on a popular three-term incumbent, Alan Butkovitz who was strongly supported by the Democratic machine.

When I first heard she was running for Controller I thought she did not have a chance, but she was indefatigable, and grew as a candidate every week of the campaign. She often did four or five small meetings in private homes in a single night, and she convinced many Philadelphians of her ability to provide new leadership and vision for the city. She won a substantial victory, garnering 58 percent of the vote.

In 2021 her record as Controller was so good that she had no opponent in either the primary or general election. She was aggressive at seeking change and applied an analytical approach driven by data to the many good suggestions she made for reforming municipal government. She displayed strong executive leadership in both her ability and by the courage she showed in taking on dug-in bureaucracies. In my long career in public life, I have found that a good leader must be willing to take prudent risks in putting forward solutions that may not be immediately popular. Rebecca has demonstrated the willingness to propose such solutions when she is convinced it is the best way to deal with the problem. She is willing to take political risks for the public good.

It is one of the reasons I believe she is a proven leader. Her experience as City Treasurer, Budget Director, and Chief Administrative Officer, combined with her excellent record as Controller, makes her the clear choice in a very strong field. Rebecca has the greatest depth and broadest experience in the government’s executive branch.

Lastly, I have felt it is long overdue for Philadelphia to be led by a woman. My 47 years in political life have convinced me that women bring a different and much needed perspective to leadership jobs. They are particularly attuned to issues that male leaders often have a tendency to overlook.

So, I believe that Rhynhart is the best choice to lead us on the long road it will take to overcome our challenges.

Advice — and a challenge

It is my strong hope that, whoever wins, he or she will reach out to some of the other candidates and try to form a government made up of what Doris Kearns Goodwin called a “team of rivals” in her book by the same name. Goodwin described in detail how Abraham Lincoln, upon winning the presidency in a political upset, did just that, and how well-served he was with the help of several men who had opposed him in the presidential election. It is my hope that whoever wins the primary will give some thought to try to assemble this team.

For example, if Rebecca Rhynhart is elected Mayor, she could offer the position of Commerce Director to Allan Domb and take the precedent-shattering step of also appointing Domb Director of PIDC. This could legally be done and would put Domb’s great business skills and unflagging energy to work reviving our economy. Rhynhart could also appoint Maria Quiñones Sánchez as Managing Director or Chief of Staff. She could try to convince Derek Green to become the next City Solicitor. And she should create a broad and significant portfolio for Cherelle Parker as City Representative.

Doing this would take advantage of the talent of these candidates and I believe assembling this “team of rivals” would bring hope to our citizens and with the people’s support behind them this “team of rivals” just might be able to effectuate a 180 degree turn in Philadelphia’s fortunes.

Ed Rendell was the 96th mayor of Philadelphia and 45th governor of Pennsylvania. The Citizen welcomes guest commentary from community members who represent that it is their own work and their own opinion based on true facts that they know firsthand.


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