HARRISBURG - To the million-plus Philadelphians waking up Wednesday, mourning the sudden absence of Ed Rendell, I say don't cry.

Sure, we lost our guy in Harrisburg. But we gained a new guy, James F. Cawley IV!

Who? you ask. Jim Cawley, Pennsylvania's new lieutenant governor, that's who. Bristol-born, Levittown-bred, Cawley holds not one, but two degrees from Temple!

The 41-year-old former Bucks County commissioner has also presided over the city's annual St. Patrick's Day parade, a sudsy, patience-testing task that more than qualifies him as an honorary Philadelphian in my book.

What? you sputter, sheepishly, unaware the state has a lieutenant governor and clueless about what the job entails beyond a $147,000 salary and a warm bed in a mansion with a pool.

Cawley is to Tom Corbett what Joe Biden is to Barack Obama, which is to say, a heartbeat away from a bigger desk, swivelier chair, ceremonial pens, and white hair.

Mock if you must, since Rendell's peculiar second-in-command, the late Catherine Baker Knoll, earned more laughs than applause for her verbal gaffes and for allowing a parrot named Groucho to serenade the Senate. Warblers aside, lieutenants have taken over for their bosses twice in the last 20 years.

Gov. Corbett hails from Pittsburgh and will lean west whenever possible. For Philly to collect even table scraps, we'd best stifle the snark and show Cawley some respect.

Local boy makes good

Still, it's a sign of the lieutenant governor's traditionally low profile that the last guy to hold the job, Senate President Pro Tem Joe Scarnati (R., Jefferson), publicly suggested either giving the office real power or abolishing it entirely.

Admit it, you can't name a single past No. 2 except Mark Schweiker, and you only know him because he, too, hails from Bucks and got promoted after Tom Ridge fled Harrisburg for Washington.

Corbett's spokeswoman didn't help matters by seeming shocked by my request to cover Cawley's swearing-in ceremony. No press, she said at first. Pool camera only.

When I finally walked onto the Senate floor Tuesday morning, I spied Mayor Nutter mingling with legislators who supposedly loathe our fair city. Still, he was all smiles.

Nutter told me he's known Cawley "since he was a Bucks County commissioner" and part of the Metropolitan Caucus the mayor created to soften hard feelings between the city and suburbs.

"We've had a lot of conversations about a lot of things," Nutter said of Cawley. "He recognizes the importance of regional relationships. He knows how to separate reality from talk. He's smart. He's a good guy."

What lies within

Cawley entered the room carrying his adorable 4-year-old son, Nicholas, who squirming in his tiny tie won over the tough crowd.

The Republican invoked Lincoln and Emerson in his pro-business, anti-regulation speech, repeatedly reminding recession-weary officials that it's not "what lies behind us or before us, but within us" that really matters.

In a modern twist, Cawley vowed to "reboot" state government to follow voters' mandate for a leaner, meaner machine. In doing so, he warned needy cities (listening, Philly?) that "current spending levels are unsustainable" and solutions will require "a lot of sacrifice."

I shuddered, but Nutter remained optimistic - he has to, doesn't he? - pooh-poohing those who presume doom in life after Ed.

"I live in Wynnefield," the mayor recalled of his days as a city councilman, "and someone in Roxborough once said to me, 'How are you going to represent us?' "

The moral of the story? "Everybody has to live somewhere."

Southeast Pennsylvania - that's Philly, plus our new BFFs in Bucks and the surrounding burbs - represents 40 percent of the state economy, Nutter gently reminded me.

"We all have to work together."

Reach me at myant@phillynews.com or 215-854-4670. Visit my Web page and connect on Facebook and Twitter at philly.com/kinney.