On an emotional and historic day, Mayor Nutter and City Council said goodbye to six departing Council members, including its first female president, Anna C. Verna, the city's longest-serving worker with 60 years on the payroll.
Verna, who won praise during her 12-year presidency for an abundance of patience and fairness, and criticism for a lack of strong leadership, received three standing ovations Thursday during her final Council session after 36 years in office.
It was also the last session for Frank DiCicco, Jack Kelley, Joan L. Krajewski, Donna Reed Miller, and Frank Rizzo.
The occasion sometimes felt like a family reunion. Council members lined up for photos. Patricia Rafferty, Council's former chief clerk and wife of former Councilman Francis Rafferty, showed up to say goodbye. At-Large Councilman James F. Kenney, who joined Council in 1992, said thinking about the departures left him "teary."
"It's 20 years - 20 years," he said. "A lot of people are going."
Councilwoman Krajewski, the raspy-voiced, salty Port Richmond girl who was first elected in 1979, was visibly moved.
"I love every one of you," Krajewski said when her turn came to speak at the lectern. "You've always been fair, and I'm going to miss you."
DiCicco made light of the primary reason for his retirement: his participation in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, a controversial pension perk that offers six-figure, lump-sum payments and that inspired the departures of all.
As DiCicco and others accepted wrapped gifts the size of a small poster, he joked that they were "blowups of our DROP checks."
The gifts, delivered personally by their former Council colleague, Nutter, were actually framed tributes to their service, and a sketch of City Hall.
Nutter did his best impression of Krajewski's gravelly growl as he described the many times he gently pitched an idea to her, only to have her cut to the chase by asking, "All right, what do you want?"
The mayor also joked about Kelly's having a tendency to make long speeches. During most Council sessions, Kelly said little besides yes or no.
Nutter praised DiCicco for playing a big role in the creation of "the greatest waterfront in any city in America," a reference to the councilman's role in shaping development on the Delaware River.
Nutter also fondly recalled his conversations with Rizzo and Miller. The three sat near each other when Nutter was on Council.
He also praised the entire Council for managing the budget during a recession.
"We did stabilize the finances of the City of Philadelphia, and that is a tribute to all of us," Nutter said.
While everyone got his due, Thursday was really Verna's day.
"There will never be another person who gave and gave and gave and asked for nothing," Nutter said of Verna, who turned 80 this year.
Verna, chosen president by her colleagues in 1999 following the departure of John F. Street for his first mayoral run, wasn't sure what to say.
"I found it so very difficult to believe that this is my last Council session as a member and as a president," she said.
She also wondered aloud whether she had spent too much time at work, leaving her with little time outside of politics.
"I think we all suffer the effect of that eventually," she said. Verna's husband of 55 years, Severino, died in June 2010.
After Council ended, Verna's colleagues surprised her with a gift: a permanent plaque honoring her in the hallway near Council chambers.
It reads: "In Honor of Anna C. Verna. First Woman President of City Council 1999-2011. Faithful Public Servant, Dedicated Citizen and a Friend to All."