Who the Hell Is Newly Prominent Philly Mayoral Candidate John Wood?

He says he served on Marine One and that his cop-brother could help me score free parking for the Flower Show. And he's twice declared bankruptcy, according to court records.

photos of john wood, a Democratic candidate for mayor of Philadelphia

Photos of John Wood, the Democratic candidate for Philadelphia who drew the first ballot position (photos courtesy John Wood)

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John Wood Drew the First Ballot Position for Mayor of Philadelphia … But Who Is He?

I’d never heard the name John Wood until March 7th. That was the deadline for candidates in the upcoming primary election to submit nominating petitions to the city in support of their candidacies. And there it was, among names like Helen Gym, Allan Domb, and Cherelle Parker: John Wood. He was officially running as a Democratic candidate for mayor. “Who the hell is John Wood?” I asked myself and some of my colleagues. And now that he just yesterday drew the coveted first ballot position in the primary — meaning “John Wood” will be the first name in the block of mayoral candidates, a distinct advantage to a candidate — it seems like an even more important question.

The day after the petition deadline, I ran a background check on Wood — pretty much standard operating procedure when vetting a political candidate, long before fraudsters like George Santos won national offices. I thought it a bit odd that of all of the “current addresses” that came up connected to Wood in the background check — one in Lafayette Hill, one on the Main Line — none matched the address listed on his candidate paperwork filed with the City Commissioner’s office. (Candidates must live in the city, just like Dr. Oz had to live in Pennsylvania to run for Senate.) The address on Wood’s paperwork was for a home on a side street in Roxborough.

To get to the bottom of this possible address discrepancy, I texted Wood and asked to speak with him. “My chairperson usually talks to the media,” replied Wood, who is 55 years old. (In a later text, Wood gave me the first name of his chairperson but declined to give me her last name, citing privacy concerns). But instead of giving me contact information for his chairperson in that first text reply, he suggested I read the plan on the John Wood for Mayor website. I told him I had already read his plan and that I didn’t want to talk to his chairperson. After I explained to Wood that I and other Philly Mag reporters had already spoken directly with most of the mayoral candidates, he called me.

I asked him about the Roxborough address, and he said he couldn’t explain why it wouldn’t come up on a background check, so I asked when he moved in there. “About a year ago,” he told me. (According to property records, the home is owned by someone else.) As for the Lafayette Hill address, he said that’s a rental property and that the Main Line address is his mom.

I also inquired about two companies that came up attached to his name: a security firm and something called the Urban College Fund. Wood told me that the security company “never got off the ground.” And the Urban College Fund? “That was a charity I set up, because I wanted to give back to the community,” he explained. “But it never worked out.”

“I’ve always had my hands in various ventures,” he added. “I’m a frustrated entrepreneur. I want to write books. There are some police stories I want to tell, like Kimberly Ernest, the ‘Center City jogger.'” (In a followup text, Wood would propose that we work on that book together.)

Wood also told me about an invention he’s been working on for a security box that would go into a car’s spare tire compartment but that his progress with that is on hold because he’s a little busy running for mayor.

We discussed his service record, both in the United States Marines and the Philadelphia Police Department.

“I was a Marine in the presidential helicopter detail, Marine One,” he said. Later, he told me that he served in the Marines from December 1985 through November 1989. I reached out to the Marines to verify Wood’s service record, but all records prior to 1995 are archived by an agency in some warehouse in St. Louis, and results take a while. Wood sent me a photo of him in Marine uniform in front of a military helicopter that looks just like the one the President flies in.

“In this picture, we flew the president of Egypt, Hosni Mubarak, to the reflecting pool at the Washington Monument,” he said.

Wood served in the Philadelphia Police Department for more than 30 years, retiring as a lieutenant in 2020, as a police source confirmed. He was recently a parole officer in Pennsylvania but had to take a leave of absence to make his mayoral bid.

“I don’t own Shop-Rites,” Wood pointed out during our first phone call. “I’m not a real estate mogul. I had a regular job but I had to leave it because I want to be the public safety mayor who takes care of our police officers. Things are too out of balance. I understand accountability. I understand George Floyd and the riots. But now is the time for public safety to be at the forefront and for us to take care of our officers.”

Wood added that his father was a cop as is his brother.

“My brother works as a cop at the Convention Center,” Wood offered. “So if you need free parking at the Flower Show, I can call him and we can help facilitate that.” (I declined.)

After Wood luckily drew the first ballot position on Wednesday at City Hall, I asked him about his two bankruptcies. He declared bankruptcy in 2001 and again in 2012, according to court records.

“Voters have a right to know if a person who twice declared bankruptcy is fiscally responsible enough to run a city,” I said in a text.

Neither Wood nor his chairperson responded by deadline to a request for comment on that.

Speaking of Those Ballot Positions…

John Wood was lucky. Some others, not so much. Here’s the official ballot order of candidates for the Democratic primary for mayor of Philadelphia:

1. John Wood
2. Cherelle Parker
3. James DeLeon
4. Rebecca Rhynhart
5. Delscia Gray
6. Derek Green
7. Amen Brown
8. Jeff Brown
9. María Quiñones Sánchez
10. Warren Bloom
11. Allan Domb
12. Helen Gym

The Blame Game: Social Media Edition

Bucks County officials just sued Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and other social media companies (I didn’t realize SnapChat was still a thing) for all the harm they’re causing Bucks County kids. Of course, the lawsuit doesn’t mention the fact that parents let their kids stay on these platforms on their phones for hours at a time.

By the Numbers: Boathouse Row Edition

8: Months the iconic lights of Boathouse Row will be dark during system upgrade.

$2.1 million: Cost of the Boathouse Row lighting project.

16 million: Possible color combinations once the new system is live.

0: Philadelphians who think letting Boathouse Row go dark for 8 months so you can spend $2.1 million to replace some light bulbs is a good idea.

And from the We-Rock Sports Desk …

Sixers starters last night for the game in Cleveland: Joel, James, Tyrese, P.J. and Tobias. Newish Sixer Jalen McDaniels was still out with that stubborn hip contusion from the Wizards win. The Sixers came out strong but let up a bit toward the end of the first quarter and were only up 29-24 when it closed. The Cavs tied it up at 31 on a 19-9 run three minutes into the second quarter and then took the lead on a three-second violation. They stayed in front, too, thanks to the Sixers’ cold shooting and, uh, rebounding phobia. And a dubious flagrant called on Harden in the last second made it 60-55 Cavs at the half. Joel had 22 points.

Things did not go smoothly in the third.

But Joel and the gang brought it back to within three with a 10-0 run with seven minutes left in the quarter. And when Maxey sank a three, the Sixers were up again, 71-70. A ton of rinky-dink foul calls were really interfering with enjoyment of the battle.

Start of the fourth: 84-83. And then it got a bit sunnier! Some threes were falling, some defense was working, some rebounding had rebounded. Halfway through, it was 105-98 Sixers. But Joel racked up his fifth foul and then was then called for his sixth. Never fear: Doc called for a review, and the call, miraculously, was overturned. Cleveland fans were not pleased. Three minutes left: 110-105. Stress time! No worries, though: Sixers win, 118-109. Six straight in the books!

The Phillies squeaked past the Yankees, 9-8, behind the pitching of Aaron Nola, who held the Yanks to one run in his three-and-two-thirds innings. Reliever Gregory Soto then got smacked for four runs, but it helped that the Phils had a seven-run first inning against three different pitchers. Zack Wheeler’s on the mound tomorrow as the Phils face the Tigers in a 6:05 game.

Pro Bowl cornerback Darius Slay was released by the Eagles and headed who knows where as a “cost-cutting measure” — oh, no, wait, never mind!

Thank God; I would miss following his wife Jennifer on Twitter, since she’s a hoot. And Fletcher Cox reupped for a year with a contract worth $10 million. I’m trying to decide how hard I’d let myself get hit for that kind of dough.

Whether golf is actually a sport or not is highly debatable. But it’s newsworthy that the one and only Tiger Woods is partnering with the Cobbs Creek Foundation in the controversial restoration of the time-honored golf course in West Philly, where such greats as Charles Sifford Jr. and Lee Elder once played.

All Philly Today Sports Desk coverage is provided by Sandy Hingston.