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As his tenure wanes, Nutter holds onto mayoral memories

With just six weeks left on the job, Mayor Nutter seems hardly a lame duck. His daily public schedule is consistently packed as he runs from ribbon-cuttings to bill signings to speaking engagements.

"I love my job, and I'm at the end of my second term ... and I'm very sad about that," Mayor Nutter told students at A.S. Jenks School.
"I love my job, and I'm at the end of my second term ... and I'm very sad about that," Mayor Nutter told students at A.S. Jenks School.Read moreTRACIE VAN AUKEN / For The Inquirer

With just six weeks left on the job, Mayor Nutter seems hardly a lame duck.

His daily public schedule is consistently packed as he runs from ribbon-cuttings to bill signings to speaking engagements.

But ask anyone in his inner circle if that's surprising and they will recite the same refrain.

"He always points to the certificate above his desk," said Deputy Mayor Alan Greenberger from his Arch Street office.

"And he says, 'I took an oath to be mayor,' " said Finance Director Rob Dubow, in a conference room at the Municipal Services Building.

"Until 9:59 a.m. on the first Monday in January," said Nutter himself, seated in his City Hall office void of any cardboard boxes to indicate a change of guard.

"I'm not in a situation where it's like, 'Oh, I can't wait till this is over,' " Nutter said Tuesday. "It's exactly the opposite. I really kind of don't want to go, but I know what the rules are. . . . I'll turn in my key."

This month, staff from the city's Records Department, Chief Integrity Officer Stephanie Tipton, and Nutter himself went through mementos of eight years in office - plaques, certificates, figurines, books, and framed photos - to determine what to archive, toss, or donate.

The mayoral memories filled closets and tables in Conversation Hall, an ornate gathering space with mosaic tile floors around the corner from the mayor's office.

Tipton said all of the gifts were of "nominal value" (assessed at $99 or less) and received on the occasion of a public appearance, thus fair game for Nutter to keep under ethics codes.

Nutter rummaged through the mayoral swag and took home a pair of boxing gloves gifted by former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes and an honorary doctorate from Drexel.

Some items - like those collected on trips to Israel, Germany, and Italy - went to the Records Department.

Dozens of T-shirts were donated to homeless shelters.

Most paintings were distributed to various city departments. Someone even claimed a four-foot-high painting of Nutter. "I'm not sure who it was," Tipton said. "The mayor was not willing to bring that one home with him."

On Tuesday, he met with a reporter to talk about his time in office. With him were Dubow, City Solicitor Shelly Smith, chief of staff Everett Gillison, and communications director Desiree Peterkin-Bell.

They recalled the grim start to his tenure. Try telling Philadelphians that the city has a $1 billion deficit the same week the Phillies win the World Series and President Obama wins the election, Nutter said.

"Talk about a Debbie Downer moment; I killed the party."

And they reminisced about the more uplifting days, like the papal visit in September.

Gillison treasures a photo of himself and the mayor from a trip to Rome. It's captioned with a catchphrase the two share: "We're just two guys from West Philadelphia trying to do the right thing."

This period is nostalgic, yes, but not unexpected.

"People in government come and go all the time." said Dubow, who will stay on as finance director when Jim Kenney becomes mayor. "It's not like the government stops and waits to see what's going to happen in January; it has to keep functioning every day."

The workload may remain steady but the office tenor shifts.

In the Office of Economic Development, Greenberger has a wall covered with a map of the city showing all ongoing and completed projects.

Greenberger is in the process of passing the baton on two of the projects he's most proud of - the renovation of the Divine Lorraine hotel and the remake of the Gallery. The career architect never expected to work in government. He would like to spend more time teaching now.

"The city does feel good. It feels better than it's felt in a long time," said Greenberger. "But I think, mostly, its self-confidence is higher."

Many of the top commissioners and deputy mayors have been in government a long time, or switched jobs enough to know the drill. For first-timers, it's different.

Jennifer Crandall volunteered for Nutter's 2007 campaign. She never thought he would win. At best she was hoping to get some experience so she could land a job in D.C. Instead, she wound up with an entry-level job with the new Nutter administration. Fast-forward eight years, she's now deputy press secretary, married (Nutter officiated), and a homeowner.

Crandall, 31, is unsure what's next but hopes to stay in city government.

"I really do like working for the city," Crandall said. "[The mayor] talks about it as being the noblest professional calling anyone can serve and it's very altruistic, but if done right, I really do feel like you can help people."

Kenney is retaining several of Nutter's top appointments, including Dubow; Michael DiBerardinis, who will be managing director; David Perri, who will be director of licenses and inspections; Rebecca Rhynhart, who will be chief administrative officer; Nellie Fitzpatrick, director of the Office of LGBT Affairs; and Amy Kurland, inspector general.

"It shows he values talent," Nutter said. "The only reason we had any measure of success over the last eight years is because we had a serious hardworking, well-experienced team."

Nutter insists he does not know what he will do next. For now, he sticks to his schedule.

Last week in the Mayor's Reception Room in City Hall, Kenney announced three more members of his cabinet with most of the local press corps in attendance.

Five stops north on the Broad Street Line, Nutter took an oversize pair of scissors to the ribbon of a new bus shelter at Temple University.

He spoke at a mayoral podium that, for now, still bears his name, posed for selfies with college students, and answered a few questions from the smaller press gaggle there.

"The only thing better than a groundbreaking is a ribbon-cutting," Nutter said afterward, ever-political. "Because the work is all done."

Editor's note: This story was corrected a second time to reflect that the Mayor Nutter will leave office is 9:59 a.m. on the first Monday in January. Also, the year of Nutter's first campaign was 2007, not 2008.