Mayor for a day: Tacony teen takes over City Hall

Erin Dwyer learned that every­body seems to want a piece of Nut­ter on a giv­en day.


North­east Phil­adelphia has nev­er been known as a cradle of fu­ture mu­ni­cip­al gov­ern­ment big­wigs.

In fact, some might say that the “Great North­east” has his­tor­ic­ally been un­der­rep­res­en­ted among the lit­any of Phil­adelphia may­ors, at-large Coun­cil mem­bers and oth­er high-pro­file polit­ic­al lead­ers.

But that all changed on Feb. 22 — if only sym­bol­ic­ally and for a single day — when the North­east took over City Hall.

Teen­agers rep­res­ent­ing the area’s many Po­lice Ath­let­ic League pro­grams be­came the hon­or­ary may­or, po­lice com­mis­sion­er, Li­censes and In­spec­tions com­mis­sion­er and even Free Lib­rary pres­id­ent as part of the an­nu­al PAL Day at City Hall.

Erin Dwyer of Ta­cony PAL shad­owed May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter for the day, while John Mor­oney of Gib­bons PAL fol­lowed Deputy Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Kev­in Beth­el. Po­lice Com­mis­sion­er Charles Ram­sey was out of town at the time.

Oth­er North­east-based par­ti­cipants in­cluded Theresa An­der­son of Wissi­nom­ing PAL, who teamed with the Nut­ter ad­min­is­tra­tion’s Chief Edu­ca­tion Of­ficer Lori Shorr; Brooke Nu­gent of Rizzo PAL, with L&I Com­mis­sion­er Fran Burns; Char­maine John­son of Po­lice Me­mori­al PAL, with Pub­lic Prop­erty Deputy Com­mis­sion­er Joseph Pa­lantino; and Xio­mara Ramirez of Ox­ford Circle PAL, with Free Lib­rary Pres­id­ent Siobhan Rear­don.

Dwyer, a 17-year-old Naz­areth Academy seni­or, dis­covered that be­ing may­or, even for just a day, isn’t ne­ces­sar­ily the glam­our job that it’s por­trayed in the news me­dia.

“I learned a lot about city gov­ern­ment that I didn’t real­ize be­fore,” Dwyer said. “I knew a lot of work went in­to city gov­ern­ment, but I didn’t real­ize all of what was on the may­or’s plate.”

Only the best of the best PAL mem­bers make the cut for PAL Day at City Hall. Dwyer, for in­stance, has been with the or­gan­iz­a­tion for 13 years, hav­ing par­ti­cip­ated in base­ball, bas­ket­ball, flag foot­ball, Home­work Club, sum­mer camp, PAL Chal­lenge and 24 Math. She serves on her school’s stu­dent coun­cil and is on its swim­ming and track teams. She plans to at­tend Duquesne Uni­versity to study polit­ic­al sci­ence and his­tory.

The day began with a morn­ing swear­ing-in ce­re­mony in the may­or’s City Hall re­cep­tion room. A meet-and-greet lunch and of­fice tour fol­lowed. Then came the ser­i­ous busi­ness for Dwyer.

Nut­ter was patched in­to a White House con­fer­ence call to dis­cuss the planned Ju­ly clos­ing of the Sun­oco re­finery in the city’s South­w­est sec­tion. The clos­ing would cost the city thou­sands of jobs and un­told in­come.

Pres­id­ent Obama was not in­volved in the call per­son­ally, but his aides were.

“It was neat to see how [the may­or] could pick up the phone and call the White House. … It was the city and fed­er­al gov­ern­ment work­ing to­geth­er,” Dwyer said.

Dwyer had em­barked on her tem­por­ary job with some pri­or in­side know­ledge. Her sis­ter Brid­get, now 22, was may­or for a day with John Street through the same PAL pro­gram. She went on to gradu­ate from Gwynedd-Mercy Col­lege and be­came a nurse.

A year later, Dwyer’s broth­er Kev­in served as hon­or­ary dir­ect­or of avi­ation. He is a 21-year-old ju­ni­or ca­det at the United States Air Force Academy.

Erin Dwyer learned that every­body seems to want a piece of Nut­ter on a giv­en day.

“The ma­jor­ity of the day was spent in the may­or’s of­fice,” she said. “He had meet­ings and they came and he had an en­tire agenda. Then we went to donate clothes to a shel­ter in Cen­ter City.”

Nut­ter is a sup­port­er of Sis­ter Mary Scul­lion’s Pro­ject HOME, a home­less ad­vocacy or­gan­iz­a­tion.

“I did no­tice that what he por­trays to the me­dia, that he genu­inely cares about the city, is really true be­hind the scenes,” Dwyer said. “Polit­ics aside, he really cares about clean­ing up the city. He has chil­dren and wants to im­prove the city for his fam­ily.”

Mor­oney, 17, is a seni­or at Bish­op McDe­vitt High School. He at­ten­ded North Cath­ol­ic for two years be­fore the Arch­diocese of Phil­adelphia closed the school.

He has been with PAL for 13 years and had par­ti­cip­ated in vari­ous sports, Eagles train­ing clin­ic, Cole Hamels Found­a­tion pitch­ing clin­ic, vo­lun­teer­ing at Home­work Club and oth­er activ­it­ies. He re­ceived the 2011 Good Cit­izen­ship Award from the Uni­on League. At McDe­vitt, he is cap­tain of the soc­cer team and a mem­ber of the base­ball team, the World Af­fairs Club, the band and the Com­munity Ser­vice Corps.

Mor­oney vo­lun­teers at the Phil­adelphia Prot­est­ant Home and St. Wil­li­am Par­ish land­scap­ing min­istry. He hopes to be­come a high-rank­ing po­lice of­ficer, fol­low­ing in the foot­steps of his fath­er, John, who is a lieu­ten­ant in the 15th dis­trict.

An­der­son, 17, is a seni­or at Girls High and a PAL mem­ber for 11 years. She has been in­volved in 24 Math, the PAL Chal­lenge and Pos­it­ive Im­ages ment­or­ing pro­gram, along with vari­ous ath­let­ic pro­grams and home­work tu­tor­ing.

Nu­gent, 16, is a ju­ni­or at Little Flower and an 11-year PAL par­ti­cipant. She has been in­volved in soc­cer, Pos­it­ive Im­ages, tu­tor­ing and Home­work Club. Out­side of PAL, she is in­volved in soc­cer, track, the Girl Scouts and the Ladies An­cient Or­der of Hi­ber­ni­ans Di­vi­sion 87.

John­son, 18, is a Frank­ford High seni­or and has been with PAL for eight years, par­ti­cip­at­ing in bas­ket­ball, PAL Chal­lenge, dance, flag foot­ball, Pos­it­ive Im­ages, ten­nis, weight­lift­ing, Home­work Club, 24 Math, bowl­ing, cheer­lead­ing, Com­puter Club and oth­er activ­it­ies. She also vo­lun­teers with the Pennsylvania SPCA shel­ter.

Ramirez, 17, is a seni­or at Fels High and got in­volved with Ox­ford Circle PAL when it opened last year. She tu­tors young­er mem­bers through the Home­work Club and helps with the Pos­it­ive Im­ages pro­gram. She does vol­ley­ball, soft­ball, cheer­lead­ing, Fu­ture Busi­ness Lead­ers of Amer­ica and Na­tion­al Hon­or So­ci­ety. She hopes to at­tend a pre-med pro­gram at Vil­lan­ova.

PAL of­fi­cials paired her with Rear­don be­cause Ramirez wrote an es­say ex­tolling the vir­tues of books.

“I learned a lot from her and she asked my opin­ions on a lot of things, and she val­ued my opin­ion,” Ramirez said. “I learned that the lib­rary plays a large role in edu­ca­tion and it’s a lot more than books. It’s about how people feel when they’re in the lib­rary.”

Ramirez ad­ded her youth­ful per­spect­ive on planned renov­a­tions at the Cent­ral Lib­rary.

“They’re renov­at­ing and they wanted my opin­ion on the teen room,” she said. “They asked me what they could change to make it even bet­ter to make teens want to be there.”

Ramirez re­com­men­ded adding a food area and a “loud” area in ad­di­tion to the “quiet” area already on the plans, “be­cause teens don’t al­ways like to be quiet,” she said. ••


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