Remember the local librarian who helped your child proudly obtain her first library card — and quietly taught all the kids on your block to read? Or the patient firefighter who installed your baby’s first car seat, and offered up some seriously powerful parenting advice in the process? How about the police officer who helped your family in a time of crisis, or the city planner who guided your business through the process of getting a license?
These folks and thousands more are eligible to be nominated for this year’s Philadelphia Integrity Icon Awards, The Citizen’s ongoing partnership with the nonprofit Accountability Lab to “name and fame” city workers who go above and beyond their job descriptions, to do ethical, high-integrity work for Philadelphia.
Integrity Icon (nee Integrity Idol) was launched over a decade ago as a way to change the narrative around corrupt government leadership. In 2018, The Citizen featured Accountability Lab’s Cheri-Leigh Erasmus at our first Ideas We Should Steal Festival, and in 2020 we brought the Integrity Icon program here — making Philadelphia the first American city to launch our own version.
That first year, we honored an awe-inspiring array of city workers: Richard Gordon IV, principal at Paul Robeson High School; Dr. Ruth Abaya, CHOP pediatric E.R. doctor and public health manager; Carlos Aponte, high school history teacher and founder of We Love Philly; Thomas Quinn, high school social studies teacher and organizer of Philly Youth Vote; and Shaquita A. Smith, social studies curriculum specialist for the School District of Philadelphia.
In year two, we honored another incredible cohort of workers: Rebecca Lopez Kriss, a deputy commissioner in the City’s Revenue Department who was honored for her work to be of real service to Philly taxpayers; Stephanie Ridgeway, the biking ambassador for the Office of Transportation, Infrastructure and Sustainability who was nominated for her work to increase access to the Indego bike program for all Philadelphians; Leah Wood, the Fentonville Arts & Sciences teachers aide working to elevate the job of paraprofessional in Philadelphia; Lauren Young, director of K-12 math curriculum for the School District of Philadelphia; and Lori Maple Hayes, the director of urban forestry for Parks and Recreation, who’s working to get more trees in Philly’s underserved neighborhoods.
And this year, at a time when our municipal services are widely understaffed and employees are working harder than ever, we’re looking to you to nominate the people who have made a meaningful difference in your life, and in your community. Nominees can be anyone who is a full-time, tax-paid employee of the City of Philadelphia, from within any department.
The criteria: Your nominee must be a high-integrity public service employee who is respectful and caring; knows their work makes a difference to people’s lives; acts in a trustworthy and transparent way to solve problems the best they can; treats everyone equally, without regard to politics or influence; and goes above and beyond to provide good service to Philadelphians.
As Gordon puts it, “Integrity is not something you do, it’s who you are.”
The process to nominate someone is simple: Fill out this form, then Accountability Lab and The Citizen will get to work learning more about each nominee before our panel of high-integrity judges — which this year includes the aforementioned former winners Gordon and Lopez Chris, alongside Angela Val, President and CEO of Visit Philadelphia; Amy Kurland, former Inspector General of the City of Philadelphia; and SEAMAAC executive director Thaoi Nguyen — review the finalists and choose the winners. You’ll then have a chance to vote on one of them as the “People’s Choice” winner, too.
Come fall, we’ll celebrate all of the winners, and fête them like the true heroes they are.
So think about the high-integrity heroes who make up the fabric of what’s good and right in your day-to-day Philadelphia life, then get nominating — we want to hear from as many Philadelphians as possible, but the deadline for submissions (again: here!) is March 31, 2023.
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