When Jim Kenney takes the oath of office Monday, it will mark the beginning of his term as Philadelphia mayor, but it also marks the end of Kenney’s metamorphosis from political candidate to chief executive.
The transition process began quietly in May, right after Kenney won the Democratic primary.
“I think they were very careful not to show their cards during the course of the campaign because they felt that would be inappropriate,” said David Thornburgh, president and CEO of the government watchdog group Committee of Seventy, “But that didn’t keep them from doing a lot of important work and serious work kind of offline to vet candidates for senior roles, to start engaging in the process of governing.”
Not long after the November election, Kenney could make those activities public.
He announced a transition team of roughly 170 people who helped him hold town hall-style meetings to get feedback from residents. The team is expected to release a report on policy priorities sometime in January.
Observers believe the work is paying off and Kenney will hit the ground running with some good players on a diverse team, which includes many women and people of color.
“He acted in a timely way and has put together a team of experienced city [government] folks along with some new faces,” said said Phil Goldsmith, a former superintendent of schools and managing director for the city who has watched the transitions of several mayors.
Kenney also has some ambitious and expensive plans, including new investments in parks, bike lanes and the port, as well as a $60 million universal pre-K program — a plan Goldsmith said will “test his credibility.”
The biggest challenge, said State Rep. Dwight Evans who co-chaired Kenney’s transition campaign, will be harnessing the mayor-elect’s “enthusiasm.”
“Jim’s a very impatient person and wants to get things done,” he said, noting Kenney’s staff will need to set goals he can achieve.
“It’s going to take some work and some time and sometimes… you will not solve things as quickly as you’d like them to be solved,” he said.
Kenney’s inauguration will be held on Monday at 10 a.m. at the Academy of Music.