As Philadelphians prepare to choose a successor to Mayor Michael Nutter this, year, one of the questions we’re asking is what kind of leadership qualities make an effective mayor. That’s one of the topics to be addressed in a one-hour election special, “Leading Questions,” you can hear Friday morning at 11 on WHYY. It’s hosted by senior reporter Dave Davies.
Our reporting team, with the help of the Committee of Seventy, has talked to other mayors about what it takes to run a big city today.
They spoke to the current and some former mayors of Philadelphia as well as former mayors of other big cities, asking what they learned about the job, what skills they needed, and, in some cases, what they may have lacked.
For example, Mark Funkhouser, former mayor of Kansas City, said he had a lot to learn about dealing with the media.
“I tried to talk to the press the same way I always had in my career — pretty off the cuff, pretty straightforward. And that was a mistake,” he recalled. “The mayor’s mouth is a loaded gun. It has to be handled very carefully. It doesn’t matter what you meant. It matters what you said. And if it can be twisted by your opponents, it will be.”
A former mayor of Washington D.C., Anthony Williams – not the Pennsylvania state Sen. Anthony Williams who’s running for mayor here — talked about the importance of building and maintaining political relationships. A big part of that, he said, is sharing credit.
“You’re going to be given credit for everything that’s good. You also get the blame for what’s bad,” he explained. “But because you’ll get credit for the good, don’t try to hog all the glory. I see so many mayors try to do that, and they get in trouble.”
We’ll hear more from those mayors, as well as some thoughts from Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter and former Mayor Wilson Goode on “Leading Questions.” We’ll also look into patterns of racial identification in voting in Philadelphia mayoral elections, and just how predictive they are of outcomes. We’ll follow residents of a Philadelphia neighborhood in transition, and we’ll review competitive City Council races.