Katherine Gilmore Richardson Wants to Become Philly’s Youngest Black Council Member
“It would be a disservice to African American women if we lacked citywide representation in City Council,” says the millennial candidate, who is trying to succeed her former boss, Blondell Reynolds Brown.
In mid-January, longtime City Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown announced that she would not be seeking re-election. Now, her former chief of staff, Katherine Gilmore Richardson, has officially launched her own at-large bid for Council. We chat with Gilmore Richardson, who is currently the vice president of the Young Philly Democrats, about her platform, challenging the perception that she’s an “establishment” candidate, and why black women are needed in politics more than ever.
Why are you running?
I was born to a teenage South Philly girl and adopted at birth by loving parents who raised me and my sister in Wynnefield. I attended the Philadelphia High School for Girls and West Chester University. I am running for City Council At-Large because I love our city and want to use my experience to move our city forward.
As the mother of young children, I see the city through their eyes. Issues of education, public safety, job creation, and criminal justice reform all take on a higher and more urgent purpose when you’re looking at them through the eyes of a toddler, and I am excited by the opportunity to use my experience in city government to help create a city that all our children can enjoy and thrive in.
I know how to effectively navigate city government to make it work for others, build broad-based coalitions to get legislation passed, and fight for the future of our city. I was born here and raised here, and I am ready to serve.
You have worked in local government for many years. What are some major issues you feel should be addressed within City Hall?
Philadelphia is the poorest of the large cities in our country. Education, gun violence, food insecurity, housing instability, living wage — the list goes on and on. We have a moral obligation to treat each of these challenges with the urgency they deserve. Any new member of Council should come to the table with their skill set and fresh ideas. I think we need more young people involved in the process who are ready, willing, and able to think independently from a new perspective.
You’re one of the youngest candidates running in this primary. How is your platform different from those of the many others who are also vying for City Council?
My platform is different because I have the experience to get things done. For our neighborhoods, I will shift funding priorities to middle neighborhoods to help families keep, preserve, and stay in their homes. For our city, I plan to focus on five key areas: prosperity, public safety, criminal justice reform, efficiency in government, and workforce development.
For our kids, I will advocate for a fair funding formula. I want to focus on funding safer school buildings, after-school programs, and support for teachers and school staff. I would also like to redirect funding for trade and technical skills schools to ensure students who do not attend college are job-market-ready after graduation.
I had the privilege to serve as a long-term substitute teacher at Overbrook High School. I met a student who eventually dropped out of high school, was incarcerated and stuck in the perils of the criminal justice system. I am happy to say he is now gainfully employed and supporting his daughter. Fourteen years after he was my student, he is now my adopted son.
You’ve just left your post as chief of staff for Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown and currently serve as the vice president of Young Philly Democrats. How do you plan to challenge the perception that you’re an “establishment” candidate?
I am an experienced candidate who wants to work with everyone. I have worked on the ground in government and I know how to get things accomplished in City Hall. Lots of candidates will talk about what they will do, but not how they plan to get it done. City Council is a team effort.
I am the only candidate with 10-plus years working behind the scenes in City Council in every position. I am proud to have worked with Councilwoman Reynolds Brown to craft and ensure passage of legislation. While I have worked full time in Council for more than a decade, I am also a millennial. We are the largest age group in the city, and in the latest midterm elections we were the largest voting bloc. There should be a millennial on City Council. We deserve a seat at the table to ensure our voices and the issues impacting us are being addressed.
With Reynolds Brown recently announcing that she’s not running for re-election, there’s a possibility that another black woman won’t replace her in representation on City Council. Why do you personally think it’s important for Philadelphia to elect a black woman specifically for City Council At- Large?
When black women vote, whoever we vote for wins. Black women have been and continue to be the lifeline for the Democratic party both locally and nationally. For the last 40 years there has always been at least one Democratic African American woman serving City Council At-Large: the late, great Augusta Clark from 1980 to 2000, and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown from 2000 to 2020. In a majority-minority city, it would be a disservice to African American women if we lacked citywide representation in City Council. When I am elected I will be the youngest African American woman ever to serve on City Council At-Large.