For most people, attending five parties across the city would be a sweaty, fattening, exhausting day.
For Derek Green, it’s simply part of the fun of being on the campaign trail.
On a recent Saturday, the Mt. Airy resident and City Council At-Large candidate hopped from Northwest to West Philadelphia, shaking hands and giving passers-by directions to the next shindig along the way.
“You know those politicians with the phony façade? That’s not Derek, he’s real,” said Shariff Roseboro on East Cardeza Street in East Mt. Airy.
Ditching the standard suit and tie for some white khakis, a red golf polo, and a ball cap, Green hung out with neighbors and friends, mostly discussing family and politics.
He also let them vent. Poverty came up a lot.
“At a cook out or a barbershop or outside of church, since I’m not in campaign mode, people feel free to talk about their real concerns,” said Green before offering his solution to what has become a major problem in the city.
Out of the nation’s 10 most populated cities, Philadelphia has the highest rate of residents living in deep poverty.
“One of the ways to address poverty is to increase the number of jobs in the city, and one of the best ways to do that is to increase small businesses,” said Green.
‘A new vision’
Green finished as the top vote-getter in May’s primary.
Of City Council’s 17 seats, seven are at-Large, which means all residents of Philadelphia elect them. Two of the seven at-Large seats are reserved for the minority party, which has traditionally been Republicans. The other five seats typically go to Democrats, such as Green, who, by way of voter registration, are virtually assured of their seats in November.
Green attributes his success so far to his vast experience.
“With my blend of the private sector, public sector, and nonprofits, I have the experience to get things done with a new vision,” Green said
A vision that celebrates the city’s unique history and embraces the future.
Green has served as assistant district attorney, deputy city solicitor, and most recently, chief counsel to Ninth District City Councilwoman Marian Tasco.
He’s also been involved in numerous civic and professional organizations such as the Pennsylvania Bar Association, the Urban League of Philadelphia, Center in the Park, Mount Airy USA, and Young America Political Action Committee.
The Germantown native graduated from Temple Law School in 1998, and went on to operate a small shoe store with his wife, Sheila, in Mt. Airy before entering public life.
“That’s why I don’t have as much hair as I used to,” Green joked after reading off his resume.
A quiet volunteer
Education tops Green’s platform. Part of that is personal.
Green’s mother was a public school teacher for 30 years, spending 27 of them at Olney High School.
“Before they removed vocational education, Olney had body shops where students would be hired upon graduation,” said Green. “My mom would take her ’74 Nova down for the kids to work on.”
A generation earlier, Green’s grandparents helped organize a group of farmers in Greenville, North Carolina to buy a bus so young African Americans wouldn’t have to walk all the way to school.
“I never met my grandparents because they passed away before I was born, but their values have been passed on to my parents and me and hopefully will to my son,” Green said.
Julian is another big reason education is so important to Green. He was diagnosed with autism at 30 months old.
Thanks to a hands-on environment at Houston Elementary in Mt. Airy, Green said his son was able to get through kindergarten. First grade, however, was more challenging.
“It was a little more advanced for him,” Green said.
So, Green and his wife developed an autism support class at the school, which has now grown to three classes.
It’s the kind of thing Green has always done, said Elayne Bender of East Mt. Airy Neighbors, a civic group in which Green once served as president.
“When he sees a need for help, he quietly volunteers,” Bender said. “It’s amazing that he can do so much and has so much energy.”
With Julian entering 8th grade this year, Green and his wife have had to plan for high school and, in the back of their minds, the long-time future of their son.
That’s allowed Green to better connect with parents on the campaign trail who are trying to find answers to the same questions.
“Julian allows us to see things in a way that we don’t take things as seriously as before,” Green said.
When it comes to maneuvering the darker corners of politics, Green said that sensibility has been a blessing.
“Just because one person decides to support someone else, I try not to get caught up in all of that. I just try to work with as many people as possible,” Green said.
Easy-going and meticulous
Green attributes his low-key, easygoing demeanor to fitness. He goes to the gym around 5:30 a.m. most days. He’s also an avid reader.
“I’ve been reading the Robert Caro LBJ series as part of a men’s book club that didn’t get off the ground per se,” Green laughed.
But Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, a longtime friend, said don’t be fooled. Green knows how to get things done. He’s sharp and meticulous while also being a consensus builder.
“He brings the best out of a lot of different people,” Williams said. “As President of Mt. Airy East, he tried to bring everyone to a consensus because, as funny as this sounds, there is always tension between the East and West.”
Lifelong Germantown resident Greg Paulmier, who has run for and lost the Eighth District City Council District four times, said he hopes Green wins a seat on Council because he feels Northwest Philadelphia is “underrepresented” on the body.
“He has this respectful demeanor — this genuine aura about him that is very much needed in City Hall today,” said Paulmier.
The general election is Nov. 3.