After four years, the moment of truth has arrived.
As of next month, Stephen Kinsey will be a state representative, a title he worked towards during state Rep. John Myers’ final two terms in Harrisburg. In the meantime, he’s putting the finishing touches on his Philadelphia office.
Kinsey was Myers’ chief of staff. He won the longtime lawmaker’s seat in the 201st Legislative District in an open contest.
“I learned a lot from Rep. Myers in regards to legislation and the opportunity to learn about the community, but now, it’s almost like a liftoff,” says Kinsey, 53, during a recent interview over breakfast in Germantown.
Though Kinsey won’t be sworn into office until New Year’s Day, the “awesome responsibility” of the position sunk in some time ago. It’s time to get to work.
“People are depending on me to uplift the community,” says Kinsey.
Trying a new approach
In between bites of an omelet and hash browns, Kinsey discusses his approach for improving the district, which includes parts of Mt. Airy and Germantown.
Creating opportunities for “meaningful dialogue to take place” will be critical. It’s a concept that’s woven into a number of his early initiatives, but also, more generally, his attitude towards constituents.
In addressing unemployment, for example, Kinsey says he doesn’t want to host traditional job fairs. He finds them overly chaotic.
Instead, he plans on holding more “intimate” events where pre-screened candidates are invited to discuss positions with various companies.
As part of that effort, Kinsey says he wants to build bridges with local institutions such as LaSalle University and the Albert Einstein Medical Center.
“When opportunities become available, my hope is that we can find qualified folks and at least get them in the door for the interview as opposed to just filling out an application,” says Kinsey.
Kinsey says he wants his constituents to view him and his staff as a true ally.
“This is one of those organizations where we would die trying, that’s how much we believe in people and that’s how much we believe in this community,” said Kinsey.
Instilling that sense in people doesn’t appear to be a task Kinsey finds difficult.
It starts with creating an environment of caring.
“As human beings, when you know that somebody cares, it means a lot,” he said. “And that’s just a starting point. The next step is showing what we can do and being helpful.”
In late November, an early morning house fire claimed the lives of two senior citizens in East Germantown. Smoke detectors inside were reportedly disconnected at the time. Kinsey’s staff visited the property on Beechwood Street the next day.
Forging a trusting relationship with the community also involves making sure constituents, or anyone in the community, knows his office is a resource that’s always available.
To that end, Kinsey says he doesn’t plan on ending his longtime practice of handing out his personal cell phone number.
“I want people to feel comfortable and feel free to call me anytime,” he says. “I can’t serve around-the-clock, but we better be able to serve damn-near-around-the-clock because issues come up at any given time. They don’t just stop because it’s three in the morning.”
Office already open
Not far from the B&B Grill and Deli sits Kinsey’s Philadelphia office.
Inside, at the end of a long hallway sits a room that Kinsey plans on opening up to the community for meetings and other events. The space will also house several computers that residents can use.
Kinsey says he is using funds from the personal pay raise state lawmakers recently voted for to help foot the bill for the effort.
It’ll be just part of Kinsey’s efforts to finally put his money where his mouth is.
“It’s all about giving back,” said Kinsey.