After fielding questions from the press several steps away from the front door to the mayor’s office, its current occupant and his likely successor hugged, patted one another on the back and returned to their respective worlds of governing and planning for an upcoming campaign on Thursday afternoon.
Minutes earlier, Mayor Michael Nutter said he and Jim Kenney have had a “series of discussions over the past few months,” but now that the latter has prevailed in Democratic primary, they met again to “talk about the future of our city” in a wide-ranging discussion that sets the potential transition process into motion.
Nutter said work has already started at City Hall in advance of the transition from his administration to the next, regardless of who gets sworn in just after 10 a.m., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016. (Nutter said he’s open to having similar conversations with Republican candidate Melissa Murray Bailey.)
“I’m certainly pleased with his nomination and look forward to strongly supporting his candidacy for the fall, with every respect to the Republican nominee,” he said. “I’ve been in the same position and know Councilman Kenney will run a vigorous campaign in the fall, much like myself, taking nothing for granted.
“At the same time, I am fully anticipating, with the level of support he had in the primary, but additional support in the general, he will be successful. At that point, we’ll work even closer together to make sure it’s a very smooth transition on behalf of all the citizens of our great city.”
Kenney noted that Tuesday night’s results spoke to “how staying positive really does matter to people” and said that Nutter’s “real legacy is the salvation of the city in the worst economic crisis in the world’s history besides the Depression and I think that sometimes goes unnoticed.”
“We’ll look to him for advice and some guidance as I move forward into the future,” Kenney said, thanking Nutter “for his endorsement today.”
Having seemingly moved beyond a strained relationship between mayor and then-councilman, they spoke about a common trait: Having been a “major pain in the ass” to mayors while serving on City Council.
“The important thing about Councilman Kenney and I is that both of us have very strong opinions about a variety of issues. We come from very similar places in terms of focus and how we arrived in public service in the first place,” Nutter said, noting that they pair played football together in high school.
“If you put two decently smart people together, from time to time, they’re going to agree on some things and disagree on a bunch of things, and sometimes disagree loudly. That’s the nature of our business,” he continued. “Councilman Kenney will run this city well and make this city proud.”
Said Kenney, “I’m not in any mind right now to criticize the mayor who has just endorsed me.
“There have been times during his administration that we worked very well together. Sometimes, there’s disagreements. I will do my best to make sure that I engage every councilmember and the council president in the things that the adminstration wants to do and I think we’ll be successful in that. Of course, there will be disagreements there, too. Government, legislation and governing is never a perfect science.”
He also noted that he has already asked city Inspector General Amy L. Kurland to continue on in that role in a potential Kenney administration, and hopes to continue sustainability issues pushed forward by the mayor.
Nutter, who had to take off early to attend annual Mayor’s Centenarians’ Celebration, also fielded questions about education funding and the controversy over whether the city will build a new prison during the nearly 20-minute press conference.