The new City Council took the oath of office on Monday at the Academy of Music, and Jack Kelly was not on stage.
In fact, Kelly — who did not run for re-election — did not attend the ceremony.
“Let the new people shine,” he said of the six freshmen members of Council. “That’s their day. It’s not mine anymore.”
Kelly, a Republican, served three terms in Council. He represented the 7th Councilmanic District from 1988-91 and was an at-large member from 2004 until he left office on Monday.
The end of his service brought “mixed emotions.”
“I’ll miss the relationships I had with my Council colleagues and staffs, the president, the mayor and the administration,” he said. “We were civil to one another.”
At the same time, he won’t miss what he calls the “grandstanding” occasionally seen during Council sessions and the compact schedules, especially during election season.
“I won’t be looking at my watch all the time, having to go here and there,” he said.
Kelly had a pretty stable staff over the years and credited the seven employees with doing a good job. Five of them have decided to stay in city government, with two headed to the managing director’s office and the other three moving to the court system, the parking authority and another Council member’s office.
New 8th district Councilwoman Cindy Bass already has moved into Kelly’s office at Room 594 City Hall.
A LOW POINT
One of the turnovers in the office came when chief of staff Christopher Wright was convicted in 2009 in a corruption case that also resulted in guilty verdicts against Kelly’s campaign treasurer and a leading donor.
The councilman was not implicated in the case. In fact, he helped the government by taping a phone call with Wright and a meeting with the donor, along with testifying at the trial.
Wright and the others convicted in the case have since been released from prison based on a unanimous ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that the charge of honest services fraud is vague. They are hoping that a local federal court issues a formal acquittal.
Kelly labeled the criminal charges “much to do about nothing,” adding that there might have been mere ethical lapses that could have been resolved with fines.
There were many happier times for Kelly during his 12 years in Council and in his other positions.
Kelly, 73, grew up near 23rd Street and Lehigh Avenue in Swampoodle and lived for many years in Burholme. He worked for 25 years in the advertising, purchasing and administration departments of a company that manufactured electrical energy equipment.
Later, he spent a few years as a Traffic Court officer and a brief time as an administrator at the Board of Revision of Taxes before edging Democratic Councilwoman Patricia Hughes in 1987 by about 1,400 votes.
HE FOUGHT THE FIGHTS
While representing the 7th district, he battled the administration of Mayor Wilson Goode. He opposed Goode’s reappointment of School District of Philadelphia Superintendent Constance Clayton, who infamously called Northeast residents “historically privileged.”
Kelly also successfully fought Goode’s plan to close a firehouse at Langdon and Foulkrod streets in Summerdale. And he joined Oxford Circle residents in a protest march on Roosevelt Boulevard to prevent a homeless group from buying a house on the 1200 block of East Cheltenham Ave.
In 1991, Kelly lost his seat by about 1,700 votes to a Northwood lawyer named Dan McElhatton.
For the next decade or so, he served as a governmental affairs lobbyist for Council.
In 2003, aging at-large Republican Councilman Thacher Longstreth declined to seek another term, and Kelly successfully ran for the seat. He became the first at-large councilman from the Northeast in 28 years.
In 2007, he won the seventh and final at-large seat by just 122 votes over fellow Republican David Oh, thanks to an advantage in absentee ballots.
Late in the race, he was hurt by fliers distributed outside Catholic churches by a group called Citizens Opposed to Politicians Who Pander to Perverts, which was angry with Kelly’s vote against allowing the Boy Scouts to remain in their rent-free headquarters because of their policy prohibiting gay leaders. Kelly sued Paul Corbett, the Lawndale man who crafted the harshly worded “voter alert,” but a judge ruled in Corbett’s favor.
‘DROP IN THE BUCKET’
Kelly, who lives in Somerton, enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan and decided not to run again in 2011.
The DROP issue is perhaps the most controversial in the city. Some oppose it because of the cost. Others believe city employees, not elected officials, should be entitled to the perk.
Most are outraged when elected officials enroll in the program, run for re-election, collect their DROP payment and return to office.
Former Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, whose term just ended, did just that, winning re-election in 2007 despite being in DROP.
“When Joan went into it, there was no uproar,” Kelly said.
There was plenty of uproar in 2011, as Councilman Frank Rizzo and Commissioner Marge Tartaglione lost their seats in the primary election, in large measure, because of their participation in DROP.
Kelly believes outrage grew as the economy slumped, and he sees the plan’s payments as a “drop in the bucket” in the overall budget. Still, he thinks that anyone who enrolls in DROP — from the “mayor on down to the sanitation department” — should be required to retire for good after the four-year period.
GETTING HIS LAURELS
On Dec. 15, Council held its last session of the year. Colleagues lauded Kelly for his opposition to tax increases and library closings and promotion of animal care, firefighter and paramedic safety and arts and cultural funding.
Looking back, Kelly is proud of raising awareness of college campus safety after deadly shootings at Virginia Tech and the dangers of the staph infection MRSA. He also brought Beth Holloway — whose daughter Natalee remains missing after a trip to Aruba in 2005 — to Council and called for a boycott of the island resort for its fumbling of the investigation.
The former councilman also brought Project Lifesaver to the city. Children or elderly people with medical conditions wear a coded bracelet, making it easier for police to find them if they wander away.
“It’s already saved a couple of lives,” he said.
As for the future, he plans to spend time at a new vacation home in Cape May County, N.J. He and wife, Kathy, are looking forward to a trip to Hawaii in the spring. And they’ll visit their four adult children, all of whom live outside the area.
“I’ll have the time,” he said.
Although retired, he’ll stay active on the political scene. He views Mitt Romney as the strongest Republican presidential candidate. He counts Democratic Councilman Bill Green as a capable contender for mayor in 2015. And he hopes the state and national GOP make efforts to boost the struggling Philadelphia Republican City Committee.
Kelly isn’t especially close to the two new at-large Republicans, Denny O’Brien and David Oh.
Still, he thinks O’Brien’s longtime support for autistic children will lead him to support Project Lifesaver and he likes Oh’s focus on a friendly business climate.
“I wish them both well,” he said.
Looking ahead, he wants to see Philadelphia become the first big city on the East Coast to adopt a “no kill” policy for animals.
Other big issues the city faces, he said, are real estate assessments and pensions. Lower business taxes are a must in his opinion.
“It’s amazing that anybody is interested in coming to Philadelphia to start a business,” he said.
Kelly fought to reopen the so-called “mini-City Hall” at 9239 Roosevelt Blvd. and wants to see its services expanded.
Overall, he’s hopeful that local Council members fight for the Northeast.
“I’d like to see the Northeast get its fair share,” he said ••EndFragment