Nearly two years after she was snubbed at the last minute to be head of the City Commissioners, Lisa Deeley is finally chairwoman, replacing the controversial Anthony Clark.
Fellow Commissioner Al Schmidt made a motion at Wednesday's board meeting to make Deeley chairwoman. Clark was absent from the three-person meeting, so only Schmidt and Deeley voted in favor of the change.
"With Clark's departure in two years and his chief of staff retiring, it seemed like an obvious" moment to switch Deeley to chairwoman, Schmidt said in an interview after the vote. "I decided I was going to do that whether he was there or not."
Schmidt said he would have liked for Clark to be at the meeting, but added that the outcome would have been the same. Schmidt said that Clark's chief of staff notified him of his ouster.
Clark did not return a call seeking comment. Deputy City Commissioner Fred Voigt said on Clark's behalf that "it was time, because he will be exiting at the end of this term. It was appropriate to make the transfer now before the next presidential election cycle."
Clark previously said he would not seek reelection in 2019.
Deeley, elected city commissioner two years ago, will lead the city's $9.6 million, 98-employee election bureaucracy. As chair, she will be paid $136,760. The other two commissioners are paid $129,373.
"Lisa and I had opportunity to work closely together these last two years, and when we agree and when we disagree, I found her to be extremely dedicated," Schmidt said in support of his decision to nominate Deeley.
Deeley said Schmidt's move "wasn't a full-blown surprise."
"It was a surprise that it happened today," she said.
Schmidt pulled a similar surprise move nearly two years ago at the board's reorganization meeting in January 2016. Deeley thought she was going to get the chairman post, but Schmidt motioned to nominate Clark, who had faced media scrutiny over his non-voting record and rare appearances at his City Hall office. Deeley stayed silent on that vote. Schmidt and Clark agreed to make Clark chairman.
In an interview with the Inquirer in 2016, Clark said he kept in touch with his office and fellow commissioners via telephone. He bragged about going to Egypt and dialing into the commissioner's board meeting.
His comments led to Democratic Party boss U.S. Rep. Bob Brady calling him a "disgrace" and Mayor Kenney saying Clark's work absence was "insulting" to other city employees. The Committee of Seventy and other groups called for the entire row office of the city commissioners to be abolished.
Since then, Schmidt and Deeley both said, Clark has been supportive of their initiatives. He has missed only three of the 51 board meetings in the last two years, including Wednesday's meeting, Schmidt said.
Deeley said all three commissioners did "good work." Two years later, Deeley said, it's time for a change.
"Sometimes it's good to get new perspective," Deeley said. "I have passion for the work."