Cherelle Parker, elected last week as Philadelphia’s next mayor, has assembled an expansive transition team and plans to make perhaps her most anticipated hire before Thanksgiving.
Within the next two weeks, Parker intends to announce her pick for police commissioner. She said Thursday that she has been meeting with local and national candidates.
She told reporters she is looking for someone with knowledge of the city, cultural competency, emotional intelligence and an ability to make difficult decisions.
John Stanford, a 22-year Philadelphia police veteran, has been serving as commissioner in an interim capacity since Danielle Outlaw resigned in September. Parker declined to say whether Stanford is being considered for the permanent job.
Leading Parker’s transition is Ryan Boyer, head of the local Laborers District Council and the Philadelphia Building Trades, an influential coalition of construction-related unions that helped power her campaign, particularly in the crowded Democratic primary.
“Friend may be too mild of an adjective to describe our relationship,” Boyer said Thursday at a City Hall news conference. “It’s more like sister.”
Current Mayor Jim Kenney, whose term expires at the end of the year, appeared at the gathering, held in an ornate room decorated with the portraits of Philadelphia’s previous mayors.
Sometimes, a new mayor looks to completely reshape the office and undo the work of their predecessor. But Parker said, “In no way shape or form is that a goal or an objective of the Parker administration.”
She specifically mentioned Rebuild, a program to renovate libraries, recreation centers and playgrounds, and PHLpreK, an initiative to provide free pre-kindergarten slots. Both are funded through a tax on sugary beverages enacted during Kenney’s first term and seen as his signature achievement.
Parker discussed some of her education priorities, including “right-sizing” the physical footprint of the School District of Philadelphia and implementing year-round schooling.
Rather than engage in traditional classroom learning, students enrolled in a year-round program would take courses in financial literacy; be trained in partnership with unions; and receive tutoring, she said.
“Anyone who is interested in enhancing public education in the city, they shouldn’t have a conversation with me trying to pit traditional publics and charters against each other,” Parker said. “That is a non-starter for me.”
On the controversial proposal to build a 76ers arena in Center City, Parker said she is waiting for the results of studies commissioned by the city. Kenney administration officials have said those reports should be completed by the end of the year.
However, Parker did indicate that she will listen to feedback from all residents, not just those who live in Chinatown and other Center City communities near the site, currently part of the Fashion District mall.
“I will make sure that the voice of the people in neighborhoods throughout the city are heard on that issue,” she added. “You can’t have a project with that potential as it relates to an economic impact and not hear the voices from people across our city.”
Parker’s transition team emphasized that hiring decisions would be unbiased, with Boyer saying there will be “no more hookup culture.” Beth Hare, of Criterion Search Group, and John Salveson, of Salveson Leadership Advisors, are handling recruitment for the new administration.
“We come to this task knowing in the past you sort of had to know somebody in City Hall to work in city government,” Salveson said. “Those days are over.”
Letters went out Wednesday to thousands of exempt city employees asking them to reapply for their positions if they want to remain in the municipal government, Parker said. Civil service workers do not have to re-submit paperwork.
People interested in working in the Parker administration can submit their resumes at transition2023.org. The new website also allows residents to submit their ideas or ask Parker to attend an event or meeting. Nonprofits are encouraged to register through the site to get connected with the administration.
Della Clarke, president of the Enterprise Center, and Versa Capital Group founder Gregory Segall are vice chairs of Parker’s transition team.
Her policy team is Patrick Christmas, formerly of the Committee of Seventy; Sophie Bryant, previously policy director at Pew’s Philadelphia research and policy initiative; Ira Goldstein, of the Reinvestment Fund; and Tiffany Thurman, of the Greater Philadelphia YMCA.
Among those on Parker’s transition steering committee are Philadelphia Parking Authority Executive Director Rich Lazer; Jennifer Rodriguez, of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce; former Aramark CEO Joseph Neubauer; the Rev. Alyn Waller, pastor of Enon Tabernacle Baptist Church; and former City Councilmember Derek Green, who was Parker’s competitor in the Democratic mayoral primary before dropping out of the race in April.
Kenney signed an executive order in May creating a transition committee within the mayor’s office and designating Deputy Chief of Staff Lyana Cuadrado as transition director.
Parker also plans to form three roundtable groups – intergovernmental, faith-based and business – that will continue to advise her after she takes office in January.
She said she intends to release an action plan and make multiple hires before inauguration day, with a full transition report expected in early 2024.