On Monday a big group of Eisenhower Fellowships staff and Fellows met with Mayor Nutter. The main goal was to introduce him to the program, enlist his support, and offer ours.
I've known Michael (as I cant help but think of him) for something like 20 years. I was a Democratic Committeeperson in his Ward in Overbrook when I was in my 20s. He was extremely helpful to our community group as we successfully stopped a private golf club from being paved over, and I helped him deliver votes for President Clinton. In the four years I worked with him, I gained enormous respect for those in public service including politicians through his example. He was tireless, attending breakfasts and evening events almost every day. He was smart, thoughtful, hardworking and completely authentic an impressive guy overall. And his ethics were unimpeachable.
On Monday, I received an official letter from the Mayor congratulating me on my Fellowship, with a nice personal note: Congratulations It would be great to see you sometime soon! Clearly, he had no idea I'd be showing up to see him that day! Ive only run into Michael a few times since we worked together, and he always remembers me, which is astonishing given how many people he must know. So it was fun when he came in, went around the room meeting everyone and gave me a smile, a hug, and a kiss. Sitting down he said something about not having seen me in a while, and I made a joke about the note. At the end of the meeting (more on that in a second), he came over and made a point of showing me Im in his Blackberry with the wrong name and number, but youre still in here! It was really nice.
The meeting itself was enlightening. The Mayor was happy to help and suggested a number of ways we could contribute so our mission was accomplished. For me the interesting part was his discourse on the realities he deals with. He was incredibly candid. The experience was 180 degrees from dinner with President Fox. We got a real feel for how difficult it is to manage a city today the % of budget in the 7 areas that no one wants cuts, the challenge of dealing with constant emergencies (that day it was a rumor of another flashmob), the unreasonable constraints the public wraps around government employees (e.g. all travel is assumed to be a boondoggle), I came away with a deeper appreciation of the mess were in and a deeper respect for the Mayor. Im doubtful that true success is possible, but Im glad hes sitting in that chair trying hard.
Finally, as at every Eisenhower event, I met more great fellows, including Sister Mary Scullion and Gail Harrity. I cant imagine how many cool people there will be at next weeks Opening Seminar, when Ill meet this years International Fellows and enjoy a day and a half of leadership development. Im looking forward to both!
I've started and/or run too many venture capital-backed software companies, plus one ill-fated food startup.