Mayor Nutter on Thursday named Richard Negrin, formerly his point man for revamping the city's troubled property-tax system, to be Philadelphia's next managing director.
He said Negrin's duties would essentially be the same as those of departing Managing Director Camille Barnett with one notable difference: Negrin will have a new title, making him the administration's fifth deputy mayor.
Nutter announced the title - deputy mayor for administration and coordination - while defending the government structure he set up upon taking office in 2008.
As managing director, which the City Charter defines as the most powerful job in city government after the mayor, Barnett was criticized for being largely absent from fire and police tragedies, blizzards and rainstorms, and major city happenings such as the July Fourth celebration.
But Nutter had shifted those responsibilities to the deputy mayor for public safety, Everett Gillison, even though such day-to-day functions had fallen to the managing director for decades.
The managing director under Nutter has far less authority and responsibility, minimized by four deputy mayors whose day-to-day jobs include directly overseeing routine government functions.
With Negrin in charge as of July 1, little will change, a point Nutter sought to emphasize by adding the deputy mayor title to "better reflect" the managing director's job as he sees it.
Though the charter states that heads of various departments - including police, health, fire, streets, and water - report to the managing director, Nutter maintained that the charter, approved in 1951, was outdated. "I'm respectful of the Home Rule Charter," he said, "but this government has to evolve with changing times."
That may be so, said Phil Goldsmith, who was a managing director in the administration of Nutter's predecessor, John F. Street, but "if the managing director position is no longer relevant, as the mayor seems to indicate, it should be done by charter change as opposed to by executive fiat."
Nutter acknowledged that Negrin, 44, would function as second in command, overseeing "a larger level of coordination among the deputy mayors," as well as supervising departments including technology, public property, and fleet management. But Nutter said that Negrin would work with the four other deputy mayors and that all five would report to Chief of Staff Clay Armbrister.
In naming Negrin, Nutter tapped someone with little government experience.
He lauded Negrin's "team-style management," a style on display during the news conference as Negrin credited Nutter's senior staff, not just the mayor, with several administration achievements.
"Rich has a reputation for getting things done," Nutter said, noting Negrin's background as a prosecutor in the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, associate general counsel at the food-services company Aramark, and lawyer with the Philadelphia firm Morgan, Lewis & Bockius. Negrin also served on the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.
"He is smart, not naive about government. He is a fresh pair of eyes," said Pedro Ramos, another managing director under Street.
In Negrin's appointment, the administration also gets a head start in reinventing the Board of Revision of Taxes. In December, Nutter chose Negrin as its interim executive director.
Negrin held that post only until early April, when a dispute between the administration and the judicially appointed leaders of the board made it impossible for him to stay on the job.
In that short time, Negrin concluded that the city's assessment system was so flawed that a two-year reassessment freeze was needed to fix the problems. He also overhauled the agency's management structure, began a series of extensive training programs for BRT staff, and oversaw key elements of the conversion of the agency's patronage employees to civil-service workers.
"In four to six months, Rich Negrin did more at BRT than was done in the last two centuries," Nutter said, adding that Negrin would continue to oversee BRT matters for the administration in his new job.
Barnett, whose last day is June 30, announced in March that she was leaving for personal reasons.
Negrin will be paid $180,000 annually, although he begins with the same 5 percent pay cut as other senior staff.
Asked whether he was intimidated by the job, Negrin - an all-American offensive lineman for Wagner College's 1987 Division III national champions - said, "No. It's a big job. The scope of it is daunting. It's a big thing, and I'm a big guy."
With Nutter's term more than half over, Barnett is the second senior administration official to leave. Andrew Altman, who was commerce director and deputy mayor for planning and economic development, resigned last year and moved to London to help with development in that city after the 2012 Summer Olympics.