Nutter: If You Want to Be Loved, Don’t Be Mayor
These are Mayor Michael Nutter’s final few months in office, but he’s not the only long-serving big city boss who’s stepping down. The mayors of Houston, Columbus, Akron and Charleston are also wrapping up their terms (Akron mayor Don Plusquellic has already left office). Between them, they’ve got 98 years of experience running big U.S. cities.
Governing magazine interviewed each of these outgoing mayors, looking for nuggets of wisdom. The whole thing is worth a read. But Nutter — who has plainly entered the I’ll-say-whatever-I-damn-well-want phase of his mayoralty — had the best quips and most interesting thoughts.
Here’s Nutter on the recession:
As the great philosopher-king Mike Tyson says, “Everybody’s got a plan till you get punched in the face.” We got punched in the face by the recession…
Here’s Nutter on how the role of a mayor has changed:
Cities are business enterprises. Increasingly, mayors are thinking about their cities more in that way. There’s an entrepreneurial spirit slowly making its way into city governments. Things like the Office of New Urban Mechanics. Try stuff, you’ll fail. Some things will work, some won’t.
On the challenges cities face right now:
And every mayor’s biggest fear right now is that you could be the next Ferguson, the next Staten Island, the next Baltimore, just like that. Our communities of color … the recovery has just passed them by. So on the one hand you see all this recovery in the streets, and mayors make all these announcements. [But then minority residents think,] “But I still don’t have a job. My kid is still getting a bad education. My neighborhood looks like hell. What’s going on here?”
And finally, here’s Nutter’s advice to his successor:
If you have a deep-seated need to be loved and admired every day, you’re in the wrong business. You should go work in a pet shop.
Want to hear more about what Nutter has learned, and where he thinks Philadelphia is headed? Join Philadelphia magazine on Friday, November 6, for Thinkfest, where I’ll interview the mayor live.