Philadelphia Mayoral Candidate Guide: Derek Green

The Quiet Giant

derek green mayoral candidate philly

Derek Green / Photograph by Jared Piper/PHLCouncil

Editor note: On April 13, 2023, Derek Green suspended his campaign.

Heading into his current bid for mayor, Derek Green, 52, had a rep as one of the more even-keeled elected officials in City Council, rarely if ever associated with controversial policy positions or combativeness. (“A quiet giant,” offers Joann Bell, director of the Philadelphia Government Office of lobbying firm Pugliese Associates.) Which made it all the more striking last July when, in response to Mayor Kenney’s off-the-cuff comment about how he’d be “happy” once he’s no longer mayor, Green was the very first elected official to call for the Mayor to resign — marking the unofficial launch of his campaign. “Philadelphians should expect more,” Green says, “and they absolutely deserve better.” (Green also surprised some observers when he came out swinging at his soon-to-be-opponent Helen Gym’s “socialist agenda” hours before she announced her candidacy.)

Civically speaking, Green is a candidate who has been around the block in Philly: Before his nearly two-term stint on Council, he was a legislative aide to longtime Councilmember Marian Tasco; he’s also been a businessman, a deputy city solicitor, and an assistant district attorney. (He’s still a practicing lawyer.) “He understands the city and understands the issues,” Larry Ceisler — longtime Philly political analyst and founder of public affairs strategy firm Ceisler Media & Issue Advocacy — says. As a Councilmember, he got a big chunk of his ambitious “Civics Legislative Agenda’’ passed, limiting how much campaign vendors can spend on behalf of city-office candidates, increasing protections for whistleblowers, and making other sweeping reforms to Philly’s campaign spending and fund-raising laws.

Ask just about any political insider to describe Green, and you’ll hear words like “cerebral,” “dogged,” “affable” and “genuine” — and beyond that, Joseph Hill, senior principal of public strategies for Cozen O’Connor, says he has a track record for “building consensus and driving a business-friendly agenda.” Real leadership attributes, no doubt — but when it comes to the race for the job, Hill says, Green might find himself lost in the shuffle “in a political and media climate that prefers conflict” and a field filled with louder voices and more razzle-dazzle.

Candidate Crib Sheet

Latest Gig
City Councilmember at Large

Key Advantages

  • Like Gym, Domb and Rhynhart, Green has already shown that he knows how to win a citywide election.
  • A deep network, thanks to years of “engagement with different advocacy organizations,” Hill says. And he’s “positioned himself as a voice of Black middle-class voters throughout Philadelphia.”
  • Well-regarded in the business community and the labor scene.

Highlight Reel

  • Successful policies include Council term limits, security deposit alternatives, wage-tax cuts.
  • Green’s hotly contested 2021 idea for establishing a public bank wasn’t a good one, public finance expert and three-time Philly mayoral candidate Sam Katz says: “But his commitment to that idea shows a lot of gumption.”

Achilles’ Heels

  • Cherelle Parker. A second candidate hailing from the powerful voting bloc in the Northwest makes momentum there hard, particularly since kingmaker Tasco is backing Parker.
  • Quoth Ceisler: “A charisma deficit.” Green’s mild-mannered, thoughtful persona isn’t exactly a media magnet in a crowded race of louder candidates.

Notable Endorsements
No official endorsements at press time.

Had raised nearly $500,000 by February. As with Gym, nearly 30 percent of his funds came from national donors outside Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Plus: Solid backing from donors in unions, law firms, Comcast/Universal, health care and developers.

Three Big Questions

Who and what is holding Philly back right now, and what will you do about it?

GREEN: I was born in Philadelphia and chose to raise my own family in the city that I love after I returned from college. I have seen for decades a city that consistently falls behind the rest of the country when it comes to growth and prosperity that is widely shared among its residents. I think a lack of leadership is what is holding Philadelphia back from becoming the city it can be and from reclaiming its position as the birthplace of grit, innovation and our nation.

What is your number one priority as mayor?

My number one priority as Mayor will be to address the serious public safety concerns that are at the top of every Philadelphian’s mind. On day one, we’ll implement a plan to reduce shootings by 25 percent.

To achieve this goal, we’ll use bonuses to hire more police officers that reflect our city by aggressively recruiting new officers from local institutions and historically Black colleges and universities. We’ll hold violent criminals accountable by targeting high-crime areas with an expanded focused-deterrence initiative and an enhanced gun-violence task force that collaborates with our federal, state and local criminal justice partners. We’ll make investments toward new capital projects to make our city well-lit and welcoming, using smart technology. We’ll expand diversion programs like The Choice Is Yours, bring back after-school initiatives like Philadelphia Safe and Sound, grow the behavioral and mental health infrastructure by providing culturally competent services, and engage public- and private-sector employers to significantly increase local hiring based on capabilities and not credentials.

How do you bring people/power in this city together and build consensus in order to get things done?

During my time on Council, I’ve worked to find common ground and deliver for our city. That can only happen when you meet people halfway on an issue and with empathy in your heart. As mayor, my approach is not going to be any different. I am a servant leader and will work with all stakeholders to improve our city. And at the end of the day, it’s not about me, but how we move Philadelphia forward now and in the future.

When I was a Councilmember, we were facing down a July 1st deadline for a city budget with no consensus. Mayor Kenney proposed a 31 percent real estate tax increase. Some Councilmembers were calling for tax cuts for small businesses and residents; some were calling for a significant increase in the homestead exemption to reduce proposed property-tax increases; others were calling for more money for public safety, and others were calling for additional funding for quality-of-life initiatives. With the added input of outside stakeholders, we were at a stalemate, with a looming deadline.

As the Finance Committee chair, I wrote the Green Plan — a compromise budget proposal that addressed all of these issues and reduced real estate taxes, provided more dollars for public safety, protected funding for quality-of-life investments, and lowered taxes for residents and small businesses to their lowest rates in 50 years. The Green Plan utilized American Rescue Plan funding and historic city revenues to meet all needs and passed by a 14-3 vote. Mayor Kenney approved this plan as the city’s budget for the current fiscal year. Now, the Green Plan didn’t meet every demand at 100 percent. But it made sure all stakeholders were represented in the budget and could walk away with a win. And when consensus is reached, all Philadelphians win.


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*According to February campaign finance reports

Published as “Derek Green: The Quiet Giant” in the April 2023 issue of Philadelphia magazine.