Brian O’Neill and Joan Krajewski were both elected to City Council in 1979 and represented most of the Northeast for more than 30 years.
O’Neill, a Republican, and Krajewski, a conservative Democrat, were Port Richmond natives who voted on the same side of almost all issues for what they believed to be best for the city.
“We came in together with basically the same roots,” O’Neill said. “We had a long run. We constantly laughed together. Joanie loved to laugh. This girl brought Port Richmond street smarts to Mayfair. She was tough as nails on the outside and soft as putty on the inside.”
Krajewski, who had a long battle with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, died on Aug. 29. She was 79.
O’Neill, who remains in office, called her “my big sister from Port Richmond.”
“She was a wonderful person to be around, and I was privileged to work with her,” he said.
O’Neill described Krajewski as politically smart, adding that she loved her children and grandchildren. He recalls spending time with her at area diners, where it seemed everyone wanted to talk with her.
“If you were a stranger, you would think she was the owner,” he said. “She reveled in the diner atmosphere.”
Krajewski worked for the city Department of Revenue and headed “Republicans for Rizzo” when Frank L. Rizzo ran for mayor as a Democrat in 1971.
After winning her Council seat in 1979, she was easily re-elected seven times after her initial victory. In 2004, she enrolled in the city Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) and announced she would not run again in 2007.
In 2005, she had surgery for removal of noncancerous polyps near her esophagus. That led to other complications, and she was away from Council for four months.
Later, she fully recovered and changed her mind about retiring. She was re-elected to an eighth and final term in ’07. She also served many years as Democratic leader of the 65th Ward.
In office, she fought the city prison cap and and created the Community Life Improvement Program (CLIP).
Over the years, she earned many honors, including being in the charter class of the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame. She’s in Philadelphia magazine’s “Best of Philly” Hall of Fame. She’s even in the Hall of Fame of the all-boys Father Judge High School.
A number of elected officials released statements on learning of Krajewski’s death.
Councilman Bobby Henon, who succeeded her, said, “I’ve had the good fortune of calling Joan a friend for more than two decades. I’ll miss our late-night conversations and her constant advice. She taught me to keep a sense of humor about this job. Her feisty nature and sharp political acumen made her equal parts legendary and approachable as a political leader in the Northeast. You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone at the Aramingo Diner, Mayfair Diner or The Dining Car that doesn’t remember Joan passing through at one time or another.”
State Sen. Tina Tartaglione said, “To the residents of Northeast Philadelphia, Joan Krajewski was a tireless servant, advocate and a legendary public official who left a legacy few Philadelphians can match. To me, she was a dear friend and mentor, my first boss and a role model. She set the standard for public service, took challenges head-on and spoke from the heart. In an era of pollsters and focus groups, her blunt honesty and direct approach made her the embodiment of passion for which Philadelphians are widely known. Although she has passed, her influence lives on in the many public servants, city employees and local politicians she inspired over her decades of service. Philadelphia will miss her much. I will miss her more.”
State Sen. Mike Stack said, “From fighting to ‘save Christmas’ in 2010 to leading school district employees as president of Local 1660 and always available to listen to her constituents, her dedicated and vigilant service seared into our vocabularies phrases like ‘diner politics’ and ‘The Queen of Constituent Service.’ People loved Joanie so much they voted her Philadelphia magazine’s best councilperson in 1987, 1990 and 1991 – and then was enshrined in the publication’s hall of fame in 1993.”
U.S. Rep. Allyson Schwartz said, “For more than 30 years, Joan was a fighter and a tireless advocate for the people of Northeast Philadelphia’s Sixth District. As city councilwoman, she made important decisions that strengthened Philadelphia and improved the quality of life for her constituents. We worked closely together on the North Delaware Riverfront Greenway and streetscape and public transit improvements along Torresdale Avenue. Joan’s passion, leadership and legacy as a defender of our city will not be forgotten.”
Mayor Michael Nutter said, “I met Joan Krajewski in the early 1980s through then-Councilman John Anderson. They were great friends and, over the years, I came to know her as straightforward and honest, sometimes brutally so, and a real friend who gave me help and guidance. She was a person whose word you could really trust. I very much admired her record of service to the city and in particular how she served her constituents in the 6th Council District who will miss her.”
Council President Darrell L. Clarke said, “Joan was a great champion of Northeast Philadelphia. She was an unfailingly supportive colleague. And more importantly, she was my friend. Our friendship began well before I was elected to office. The unsung, lowly staffer did not exist in Joan’s world. She treated City Hall employees as equals. Joan took the time to get to know everyone she encountered here, no matter their position or station. But Joan also was tough as nails. She was one of the most effective Council members in recent memory. The skill with which she leveraged her office to deliver for constituents and for the 6th District was masterful. I hope what Philadelphians remember most about Joan is she was a genuinely caring, warm, good human being.” ••