After 23 years, Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney resigned his seat Thursday to run for mayor. He gave a farewell speech that anywhere else but City Hall might have come with a two-drink minimum.
As he reflected on his two decades in council, Kenney cracked jokes and did impersonations of politicos from the past, including former Mayor John Street and the late Councilwoman Joan Krajewski.
“I know Joanie’s saying, ‘Hey, Jim Kenney, why don’t you smile a little more?'”
Kenney’s sense of humor and his temper were the qualities his fellow councilman Mark Squilla recalled fondly while wishing him well.
“Of course we didn’t always agree and when you see Jimmy’s face get real, real red, you know that sooner or later his head was going to pop off and he would start stomping out,” Squilla said, “But in the end, and like councilman [Bobby] Henon said, he was able to work through things.”
But Kenney insists his “temper” is really “passion” for progressive issues like immigration reform, LGBTQ rights and relaxing punishments for marijuana possession.
In a preview of campaign rhetoric to come, he talked about the lessons he learned from his father, a South Philly firefighter.
“We are not running into burning buildings or cutting people out of cars, but let’s dedicate ourselves to that type and attitude of public service and I think in the end, we’ll all have a better city and we’ll all go forward together,” he said.
And despite his frayed relationship with Mayor Nutter, Kenney gave credit to the man he wants to follow.
“Michael Nutter’s administration has done a lot of good things in waterfront planning and development and in sustainability and energy,” Kenney said. “I would build on those things. I think we have to figure out our schools.”
Kenney is expected to make his mayoral bid official next week, bringing the field of likely Democratic candidates to six.