As a new administration is set to take over the second floor of City Hall, and municipal opportunities become available with a mayoral transition, I feel compelled to share my experience working in City government.
Like so many people around the world, the pandemic forced me to slow down and reflect on what I wanted to do in my career. At the ripe age of 28, a few things were clear: I wanted to make a bigger difference in my local community and I wanted to grow as a leader.
In a city flush with non-profit organizations serving Philadelphia and large corporations with social impact strategies ingrained in their ethos, the options for my next move felt limitless. But when a role with the City of Philadelphia arose, I defaulted to the old stereotypes about city government:
Oh, it’s slowwww.
Nothing gets done.
The rumors are untrue
Despite those misconceptions, I decided to take an interview with Kira Strong, the executive director of Rebuild, and was moved by her passion. When she offered me a job, I decided to join the City as communications director for Rebuild Philadelphia, Mayor Kenney’s signature initiative to channel $500 million into public spaces. Now, after a few years of service, I can say with confidence: All the rumors are wrong.
We are all Philadelphians. We’re passionate about our sports, our food, our culture and our future. Everyone who wears a City of Philadelphia badge has your best interests in mind, and knows their decisions are impacting your personal lives.
I’ve been lucky enough to work in higher education, religious institutions, the private sector and, with Rebuild, the public sector. After seeing up-close how city government works, I can say that there is no one more dedicated to their work, and city, than municipal employees. Often understaffed and underfunded, the City’s workforce — from sanitation employees through the team in the Rebuild office — wake up and go to work every day with one thing in mind: serving others.
If you’re looking to make a daily impact, there’s no better place to work than your local government. City services operate in every corner of Philadelphia, every single day — whether it’s large capital projects like Rebuild or maintaining the City’s new public restrooms, there are meaningful opportunities to gain valuable project management and leadership experience that touch the lives of real people every day.
Some would consider the work thankless, but I disagree. For every resident who reaches out, every neighbor who attends a public meeting, or every Philadelphian who sends you an X/Tweet about what you’ve done wrong, I’ve learned that if you take a moment to talk to them about their concerns, you find a story about someone who cares deeply about their city and just wants to make it better … not unlike the City worker taking their feedback.
We are all Philadelphians. We’re passionate about our sports, our food, our culture and our future. Everyone who wears a City of Philadelphia badge has your best interests in mind, and knows their decisions are impacting your personal lives. And that is part of the thrill as a municipal worker — aiming to change lives for the best in our beloved city.
I wrapped up my role at Rebuild last week and am preparing to start a role in the private sector with new tools and a new perspective from my time in city government. I can say with confidence to anyone considering their next move and feeling a call to service their community, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Raymond Smeriglio was First Deputy and Chief of Staff at Rebuild Philadelphia.
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.
MORE ON CITY WORKERS AND THE SERVICES THEY PROVIDECity Hall. Photo by Theo Wyss-Flamm