The Lead

Philly City Council President Darrell Clarke will not seek re-election

By: - February 24, 2023 10:35 am

Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke (Photo via The Philadelphia Tribune).

By Alec Larson

PHILADELPHIA — Ending a four-decade run in politics, Philadelphia City Council President Darrell L. Clarke announced Thursday that that he will not seek reelection.

“I’m extremely proud of the collective work of this legislative body so far during my term as its president,” he said. “From making the largest single investment in affordable housing and neighborhood preservation in Philadelphia history, to a comprehensive program to begin moving 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty, to the work we’re doing to invest in community-based violence prevention to make Philadelphia safer, City Council has led the way in taking action to make our city a better, cleaner and safer place to live and work.”

“We have much more work to do this year. Implementing reforms to the Zoning Board of Adjustment, rolling out the first class of Public Safety Enforcement Officers, creating a new Chief Public Safety Director, studying our workforce and recommending reforms to help with worker attraction and retention, creating a new Deputy Commerce official focused on job creation — all these initiatives and others are on the plate in 2023. We have work to do,” Clarke said.

Following weeks of speculation as to Clarke’s political future, his announcement now positions the Council to begin thinking about who will lead the legislative body after 12 years with Clarke at the helm.

Councilmembers Kenyatta Johnson, Mark Squilla, Curtis Jones and Cindy Bass have publicly said they are interested in the position.

Clarke was first elected to City Council in 1999, when he replaced then Council president John F. Street as the city’s 5th District councilmember. Clarke was then reelected to his Council position in 2003 and 2007.

It was in 2011 that Clarke’s colleagues chose him to succeed Anna Verna as Council president, and Clarke then held that position for three consecutive terms.

Clarke’s departure continues a recent trend that has seen a wave of turnover involving entrenched city officials, with the year currently set to end with a new mayor, new city controller, and a large number of first-term Council members.

Mayor Jim Kenney thanked Clarke in a statement for “being a valued colleague and a friend throughout my time in office and on City Council.”

“Darrell has served our city unwaveringly for four decades, championing historic progress and also providing vital leadership amid unprecedented challenges. It’s been an honor to work alongside him on our shared goals — including education, housing, and jobs — and I congratulate him on a distinguished career in public service. I look forward to working together over the next 10 months to set a strong foundation for our city’s next chapter.”

Councilmember Katherine Gilmore Richardson also said in a statement that Clarke has been “a steadfast, dedicated, and thoughtful leader for 11 years” and noting that “City Council as an institution is better because of him.”

“Maya Angelou once said, ‘a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.’ That’s exactly what Darrell L. Clarke has been. Not only in his position of leadership, but also in his service of the residents of the Fifth Council District,” she said. “I remember when Council President Clarke won the 1999 special election. It was the same year that my mentor, Blondell Reynolds Brown, was first elected, and in many ways, the Council President has also served as a mentor to me. We both started as Council staffers, and I have had the privilege of working alongside him my entire City Council career.”

Clarke is still set to serve the remainder of his current term, which will expire at the end of the year.

“I love my job, serving the residents of the 5th Council District. It’s the best job in the world. And I enjoy the trust of serving my colleagues as president of this body,” Clarke said. “I’m confident in our members and their abilities. It’s been the privilege of a lifetime to serve the people of Philadelphia. And I’m excited and looking forward to continuing to serve the public in meaningful ways.”

Alec Larson is a reporter for the Philadelphia Tribune, where this story first appeared

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