One of the most common questions I get as Deputy Mayor and Managing Director is, “What’s a typical day like?” People seem to want to know what a “Day in the Life” is working for a great City like Philadelphia. The true answer is, there is no such thing as a “typical” day in this job; it can be a fast-paced survey of projects, conversations with employees, interactions with community members, Interviews with media, updates for the Mayor and the Chief of Staff, speeches on important issues, and some days, dealing with unexpected crisis. My days are often about not knowing what to expect. In this position, I constantly have a front-row seat to some of our City’s great accomplishments and, unfortunately, to some of our most horrendous tragedies. While no day is the same in my position, last week, I had a day that serves as a striking snapshot of what it’s like. There may not be “typical” days in this job but there are days that are so poignant that they underscore my role and the many challenges we face as a City. So when I looked at my calendar to decide when might be a good day for a “day in the life” post, Wednesday, June 17th looked good. It had a variety of subjects, speeches, events and meetings that I thought showed the diversity of issues involved in this role. I asked for and was assigned an intern, Samantha Kapnek, to ride along and help capture the busy day. I was looking forward to a full day of productive meetings and meaningful events.
Little did I know that it would be one of the more memorable days of my service. Little did I know that my day would begin and end with one of the most important and challenging issues facing our City and country.
The run-down of my day went something like this:
7:00am-8:30am: Wake up. Prepare for work. Coffee and quick breakfast. Scan all the papers on-line and review social media feeds, respond to emails, review notifications from Police Department on major incidents overnight and into the early morning hours. Today, as I prepared to leave for a middle school to discuss gun violence, two notifications specifically grabbed my attention.
Message generated from the City of Philadelphia Employee Alert System.
Message generated from the City of Philadelphia Alert System.
8:30am-9:00am: Travel to Kensington section of the City.
9:00am-10:30am: Arrive at John B. Stetson Middle School. Speak at the opening of a 5th grade class’s memorial garden project for loved ones impacted by gun violence. (Collectively, the class had over 80 loved ones impacted by gun violence.) Speak about the tragedy of gun violence, share my personal experience, hear the class’ experiences with it, and discuss the need for both legislative and cultural changes throughout our country. Share stories, spend time with 5th graders, teachers, and PhillyRising staff. Speak with Channel 6abc news on the garden’s opening.
10:30am: Travel to office in Municipal Services Building in Center City.
11:00am-12:00pm: Meet with Fleet Department Commissioner, Chris Cocci, on operational updates and status of capital investments related to public safety vehicles. Review 5 year plan to replenish and modernize vehicles and equipment.
12:00pm-12:30pm: Review documents related to PhillyRising neighborhood expansion.
12:30pm-1:00pm: Meet with Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff on new directive around large special events and emergency employee deployment.
1:00pm-1:15pm: Eat lunch at my desk. (Soup) Review email, on-line news and social media feeds.
1:15pm-1:30pm: Meet with Deputy Chief of Staff regarding mail, scheduling and upcoming events.
1:35PM: Another police alert:
Message generated from the City of Philadelphia Employee Alert System.
1:30pm-2:00pm: Meet with Chief of Staff regarding next year’s National Urban Fellows. (The Managing Director’s Office hopes to have two urban fellows next year exposing students to public service and providing research and policy support.)
2:00pm: Intern Samantha Kapnek joins me for the afternoon events.
2:00pm-2:30pm: Speak in the Innovation Lab at the last session and graduation of a Center of Excellence leadership development training for City employees. Present professional certificates to graduates and have Q&A with leadership class participants.
2:30pm-3:00pm: Meet with Philly311’s Head of Operations, Sheryl Johnson, on 311’s organizational changes and staffing needs during the Papal visit and other upcoming large summer events.
3:00pm-3:15pm: Welcome America update. Meet with the Office of Special Event’s Bob Allen on 4th of July planning.
3:15pm-3:30pm: Travel to Federal Courthouse Ceremonial Courtroom at 6th & Market in Center City.
3:30pm-4:00pm: Speak before federal judges and judicial interns at the Judicial Intern Opportunity Program orientation held at the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania. Discuss my career path and legal career, diversity in the legal profession and public service.
4:15pm-4:30pm: Speak with the Center of Excellence’s Edward Garcia on his idea for a new workforce development opportunity for returning citizens.
4:30pm-5:00pm: Travel to Citizen’s Bank Park in South Philadelphia.
5:00pm-6:30pm: Arrive at Citizens Bank Park. Speak at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services Naturalization Ceremony. Congratulate 15 of Philadelphia’s newest citizens on being sworn in. Congregate with the new citizens, their families, Phillies team representatives and the Mayor’s Office for Immigrant and Multicultural Affairs’, Jennifer Rodriguez and Fernando Trevino.
6:45pm: Travel home
7:30pm-9:30pm: Arrive at home. Order food for family. Put my youngest daughter to bed. Review email on-line, news and social media feeds, sit down to watch TV.
10:00pm: My heart sinks as I receive the first message about the shooting in Charleston.
10:00pm-1:30am: Watch in disbelief and horror the coverage of Charleston Massacre across news outlets.
1:30am-2:30am: Lay restless trying to sleep thinking about the days events and, despite such great progress, how far we still have to go as a society.
My day began and ended with gun violence. This is an issue which has personally touched my life with the death of my father and an issue which has impacted me so profoundly as Deputy Mayor and Managing Director. One of the difficult aspects of this job is the repeated exposure to complex problems in our city and feeling an overwhelming responsibility to fix them. Whether it’s the violence in our neighborhoods, our children too often caught in the crossfire, open season on our police officers or the widespread proliferation of guns, we need to do something about the gun violence in our society. The shooting in Charleston was a horrific attack and one that could have just as easily happened in any city or town in America. It was an act of terror. Earlier that morning, I was with 5th graders in Philadelphia as they told me about their personal experiences with gun violence. Many of their families too, have been terrorized by gun violence. It was gut wrenching. Now, at the end of my day, Charleston was gut wrenching. Gun violence continues to be a blood stain on our society.
While this busy day gives a snapshot of what it’s like to be a big City Managing Director, it also gives an accurate snapshot of what it’s like to be an American. Whether it’s the mass shootings at our churches, schools, malls, movie theatres or the violence in our neighborhoods, we are constantly surrounded, overwhelmed, and terrorized by gun violence. This cannot be the status quo. This cannot be our “Day in the Life” any longer. And you don’t need to be a Deputy Mayor or Managing Director to make a difference.
I hope we all do our part to make sure we no longer have days like June 17th.
Rich Negrin is the City of Philadelphia’s Managing Director and Deputy Mayor for Administration and Coordination. Service Centered Leadership is the Managing Director’s blog series appearing on PhillyInnovates. Follow Rich on Twitter @RichNegrin.