City Council President Darrell Clarke says he won’t run for re-election

City Council Clarke
City Council President Darrell Clarke sits next to Mayor Jim Kenney.
Metro file

Longtime City Councilmember Darrell Clarke, who has led the legislative body for more than a decade, said Thursday that he will not seek re-election this year.

His decision to step away opens up a contest for Council president – viewed as the second most powerful position at City Hall, behind the mayor – and leaves another seat in the chamber without a strong incumbent heading toward May’s primary.

Clarke, 70, is planning to serve out the remainder of his term, which runs through the end of the year.

He began his political career working for John Street Council’s office, and Clarke succeeded Street when the latter launched a successful run for mayor in 1999. Lawmakers elected Clarke as the head of the chamber in 2012.

“I’m extremely proud of the collective work of this legislative body so far during my term as its president,” Clarke said in a statement. “City Council has led the way in taking action to make our city a better, cleaner and safer place to live and work.”

He cited multimillion-dollar investments in affordable housing, public education and anti-violence programs included in recent budgets, as well as Council’s attempts to blunt the impact of property tax reassessments.

“However 2023 has only just begun. I will be approaching my final year with as much energy and focus as I approached my first. We still have many things to accomplish,” Clarke tweeted.

Among his priorities are implementing changes to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, based on a ballot question passed last year to expand the board’s number, allow Council to approve nominees and institute qualification standards.

Clarke is also hoping to oversee the hiring of public safety officers, a long-running goal that received a boost in the fall when an arbiter found that the city could expand the use of civilians in law enforcement roles.

Last week, Clarke introduced legislation to create a public safety director to oversee the city’s anti-violence efforts. The change would need to be approved by voters.

Mayor Jim Kenney, who will also be leaving City Hall at the end of the year, said Clarke “has served our city unwaveringly for four decades, championing historic progress and also providing vital leadership amid unprecedented challenges.”

“I look forward to working together over the next ten months to set a strong foundation for our city’s next chapter,” he added, in a statement.

Council members elect the president, and the likely frontrunners to replace Clarke include senior Democratic lawmakers who already hold leadership positions: Majority Leader Curtis Jones Jr., Whip Mark Squilla and Deputy Whip Cindy Bass.

Clarke’s 5th District covers a large portion of North Philadelphia and also spans parts of Center City, Northern Liberties and Fishtown.

Patrick Griffin, Jon Hankins, Aissia Richardson and Jeffrey Young have filed paperwork to run for the seat, according to campaign finance documents. Clarke is throwing his support behind his former chief of staff, Curtis Wilkerson.