What kind of experience is best suited for the position of the 100th Mayor of Philadelphia? Is it decades at the helm of a real estate company and seven years on City Council (like Allan Domb)? Is it work on Wall Street, followed by several years in mayoral administrations and five as City Controller (like Rebecca Rhynhart)?
Who has what citizens of Philadelphia think is required to do the job — leadership, joy, accountability, empathy and the proven ability to solve problems?
These are among the questions our team of experienced interviewers sought to answer Tuesday night at The Citizen’s third Ultimate Job Interview event with Rhynhart and Domb. Each candidate spent an hour on stage before a sold-out crowd at Fitler Club for a candidate forum unlike most other campaign events: Rather than talk about policy, our interviewers focused on the traits most needed to lead the sixth largest city in America. (A city both declared a “World Class City” with many things that need fixing.)
Tuesday’s event was the third in the series that began with The Citizen soliciting feedback from residents to create an official job description for the role of Mayor, to which all candidates will be held. (You can read the full, publicly-created job description here.) Previous interviewees have been former Councilmembers Derek Green; and former Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez and grocer Jeff Brown.
On February 21, we’ll host former Councilmembers Helen Gym and Cherelle Parker. (The event is free, but you must register here.) The series will continue with annual performance reviews for the winner, our next Mayor. So far, all of the candidates have agreed to participate if elected.
The interviews were broadcast live on WURD, the state’s only Black-owned talk radio station. Host of WURD’s Reality Check and EcoWURD Charles Ellison hosted the broadcast, and ended each interview with questions from the audience.
Rhynhart fielded queries from Ken Hirshman, managing director in the Private Equity, Industrial, and CEO Practices division of Diversified Search Group, a sponsor of the Ultimate Job Interview; Sue Jacobson, president of Jacobson Strategic Communications and immediate past chair of the Chamber of Commerce; and former Mayor Michael Nutter, who was interviewing Rhynhart for the second time. (The first was 16 years ago, when he hired her to become his city treasurer and subsequently budget director).
Nutter asked Rhynhart a question that has dogged her for much of her political career: Are you tough enough for the job?
“Of course I’m tough enough,” she answered from the stage at The Citizen’s Ultimate Job Interview event on Tuesday. “When I decided to run in 2016 I ran against the party, against the incumbent because I knew I needed to hold elected office to make change. I ran with the support of one ward leader. I ran against the Democratic Party in Philly.”
Rhynhart won that primary election against entrenched Controller Alan Butkovitz and went on to be the top vote-getter in the 2017 general election, followed by five years in the controller’s office before she resigned to run for mayor. This time, though, the stakes are even higher — as is the competition.
Rhynhart was followed to the stage by former Councilmember Domb, who touted his 45 years as a real estate entrepreneur and seven years on City Council as providing the experience needed to succeed in the City’s highest elected role. What Domb has very little experience with: Job interviews. The so-called “condo king” started out by telling the crowd that he has only ever had four job interviews (before this one) — three of which he says went poorly.
For his interview, Hirshman was replaced by Michael Haugen of ghSMART,a leadership advisory and analytics firm
Domb laid out his path to government, from running the Board of Realtors to considering a mayoral run in 2015, when former mayors — including Nutter — encouraged him instead to learn the ropes in City Council.
Both candidates laid out their top priorities, talked about how they have and will work with City Council, how they lead their teams and what they will bring to the job of mayor, if elected.
“I came here with nothing, this city gave me everything,” Domb said. “I love this city, and want to help fix it.”
Our video is coming soon! In the meantime, here are video highlights from the last two Ultimate Job Interviews and photos from Tuesday night’s event.
See past Ultimate Job Interviews
Here are some photos from Tuesday’s event:
The Ultimate Job Interview is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, the Wyncote Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.everyvoice-everyvote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.
This project is also made possible by the support of Diversified Search Group.Philadelphia Mayoral candidates Allan domb, left, and Rebecca Rhynhart, right. Photos by Theo Wyss-Flamm