Kenney on finding human balance in the mayor's office
Last February, I wondered how the next mayor of Philadelphia could bring his or her humanity to the task of city government. As voters were sifting through a confusing array of mayoral candidates and events, I tapped Stew Friedman, professor of management and director of the Work/Life Integration Project at Wharton, to help me out.
I think we came up with some good talking points:
- Creating a sense of harmony among the different parts of life of work, home, community, and self
- Each person must figure out a balance for themselves — which will change over time
- Especially for a civil servant like a mayor, the issues of community service and work can clearly overlap — or at times be discouragingly separate.
I closed the piece asking candidates for their thoughts. Not surprisingly, there was only the sound of crickets chirping.
But that was then, and this is now. Mayor-elect Jim Kenney ran a solid campaign and won a sweeping victory. So as he is heading toward the inauguration, prepping his staff and shuttling around the city to upwards of seven or eight public meetings on a given day, I asked him how he thought about keeping his human balance in the job — at least at the outset.
He was characteristically both frank and realistic.
"It's pretty difficult maintaining a self-care/work balance as the mayor-elect, so I can only imagine how much harder it's going to be as mayor," Kenney said. "To maintain that balance, I plan to ensure that I schedule personal time to spend with my family. All plans are subject to change, but if I can maintain some personal time despite a hectic schedule I believe it will benefit my overall health and well-being in the long run."
True, it'll be difficult, and I heard Kenney say at the recent Rise Conference 2015 on civic innovation that he'd purposely not sought the mayoral office earlier in life, in part because his kids had still been at home. Still, even at this later stage, it'll be a challenge — and as for any leader, it's a challenge that he shouldn't have to handle alone. So, I asked: How could citizens and leaders in Philadelphia help him in seeking that balance?
"The leadership of Philadelphia and every Philadelphian can support me by truly understanding that we all have a part to play in moving our city forward," Kenney said. "I get asked all the time what I'm going to do about this issue or that issue, but it's not what I'm going to do, it's what we're going to do. No one person can drive down the poverty needle in a significant way, improve the relationship between our community and police, or turn our failing schools into successful ones. If each person is willing to lend a helping hand in those efforts, we have the potential to create a better place for us all to live."
So maybe the mayoral inauguration is a chance for all of us to commit — again — to being accountable to Kenney and to each other for loving and caring for this city.