The Citizen’s first round of mayoral candidate interviews ended this week with former City Councilmembers Cherelle Parker and Helen Gym pitching themselves to a crowd of 400-plus engaged citizens at the Fitler Club.
Parker, a two-term City Councilmember from Northwest Philadelphia who served 10 years in the state legislature, touted her years of governing and experience collaborating with colleagues from both parties as preparation for the city’s most powerful post.
“Governing is the only thing people think they can do when they’ve never done it before,” she said. “I’ve done work that people can tangibly touch, feel, and see. I’ve had some success, and now I want to do it across the city.”
Gym talked about her 30 years of civic leadership as a teacher, community activist, and City Councilmember since 2016. Her greatest accomplishment, she said, was her co-sponsored first-in-the-country Eviction Diversion Program that has helped thousands of tenants at risk of being evicted mediate with their landlords to come up with a solution to keep them housed — and landlords paid.
“There are two real ideologies in this city — people who get things done and people who talk about it,” she said. (She sees herself as the former.) “As mayor, I intend to lead with that same kind of leadership to solve the city’s problems.”
Both women parried challenges on their records from former Mayor Michael Nutter, one of the interviewers for the event — particularly Gym, whom Nutter questioned on a couple of seemingly contradictory positions, including helping to found FACTS charter school in 2005, and subsequently criticizing the role of charters in our city’s education struggles. Gym turned it back on Nutter, for what she claimed was his part in closing several neighborhood schools while he was mayor.
“Mayor Nutter, your actions as mayor is the reason I am on this stage,” she said. “We are very different people. We see each other and we see things in vastly different lights; we are just in total disagreement.”
The candidates were interviewed one after the other by Judee Von Seldenek, founder and chair of Diversified Search Group, a sponsor of the series; Dr. Keith Leapheart, founder of Philanthropi; and Nutter.
Tuesday’s event was the fourth 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; former Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez and grocer Jeff Brown.
The series will continue with annual performance reviews for the winner, our next Mayor. 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.
Watch the event below:
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.Cherelle Parker (left) and Helen Gym appeared in The Philadelphia Citizen's Ultimate Job Interview on February 21, 2023. Photo by Sabina Louise Pierce.