Start picking your key City Hall personnel now. Don't wait until November. Consider the requests of your political supporters, but learn right away to tell them no.

That's the advice that the current mayor, two former mayors, and others have for the man who won Tuesday's Democratic mayoral primary and is in line to be Philadelphia's next mayor, Jim Kenney.

"He's going to have to be strong, and I think he will be," said former Mayor Ed Rendell. "If this administration is dotted with political appointees, it can't be successful."

Rendell and others know the process well.

David L. Cohen, Rendell's former chief of staff, recalls that before their administration took office 23 years ago, they were hit with 12,000 resumés.

Of the city's 27,000 employees, the mayor gets to appoint fewer than 100, but all are key posts, including department heads and deputy mayors. There are also about 700 appointees, including ex officio members, to various boards, commissions, task forces, and advisory groups.

So not all who volunteer or work for the campaign can get a job with the mayor they helped elect.

"The groups will quickly find out . . . by necessity you can't accommodate them all," said Dick Hayden, who advised Mayor Nutter during his transition in 2007.

Kenney, the Democratic nominee in a city where the party holds a 7-1 registration edge over the Republicans, is aware of the challenges he faces.

"I want to hit the ground running in January. I don't want to be floundering around trying to find people," Kenney said in an interview Thursday. "So there will be a robust transition process."

But aside from saying he wants to keep Police Commissioner Charles H. Ramsey and Inspector General Amy Kurland, Kenney did not say much about what his administration would look like.

Some names have started floating around as having roles in a Kenney administration, including Debbie Mahler, his chief of staff while on Council; Jim Engler, his legislative director while on Council; lobbyist Lauren Vidas, who has worked for the Nutter administration and for former Councilman Bill Green; and Brian Abernathy, executive director of the Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority. Another name is former City Councilman Frank DiCicco.

Kenney has also said he would be willing to give jobs to at-large Councilmen Wilson Goode Jr. and Ed Neilson, who lost their bids for reelection in Tuesday's Democratic primary.

"Wilson Goode has done really good work," Kenney said. "I'm tending, when the time comes, to reach out to him and see if he can serve in some capacity.

"Ed Neilson is the same way. I think they are good people. They've done a good job."

If the path former mayors have taken is any indication, Kenney will start having informal conversations with current and former city employees and those outside city government he would like to see work for him.

"He's going to have an advantage of seven months," Rendell said. "He can get to know people."

Because so many resumés, letters, and phone calls will come in from people requesting jobs, Rendell suggested having a transition team to sort through all the applications and narrowing them down.

So far, the Kenney campaign has received a few dozen inquiries for jobs, spokeswoman Lauren Hitt said.

After he won the Democratic primary in 1983, Wilson Goode Sr., the city's first African American mayor, set up an office where he would meet with his advisers and potential hires

"Some people say it's a bad thing" to start planning before the general election is over, Goode said.

"I think it's critical to do that," he said. "Worst-case scenario is you win and don't have" a plan.

After winning the Democratic primary in 2007, Nutter traveled to New York and Chicago to see how Mayors Michael Bloomberg and Richard Daley had structured their administrations.

Nutter and the two former mayors interviewed for this story said they searched for the "best and brightest" from throughout the country, often choosing people they didn't know but became impressed with once the interviews were held.

Hitt said Kenney did not have immediate travel plans.

But there is one position, Rendell and Nutter said, that has to be someone the mayor fully trusts and has had a preexisting personal relationship with: chief of staff.

For Rendell, it was Cohen.

For Nutter, it was Clarence D. Armbrister and later Everett Gillison, both of whom he knew from college.

"You've got to trust that person. . . . It's the ultimate confidant," Nutter said.

Goode went with someone he didn't know before the interview for his top aide position, choosing Army Maj. Gen. Leo Brooks as his managing director.

"There was chemistry . . . just by that meeting," Goode recalled.

Some political insiders have said that DiCicco could end up as Kenney's chief of staff or another high-profile job.

DiCicco said Kenney asked him a few weeks before the primary about his willingness to serve in his administration. An exact job was not discussed, DiCicco said.

DiCicco and Kenney had adjacent offices while both were on Council. The two men, both of whom are from South Philadelphia, were trained in politics while working for then-State Sen. Vincent Fumo.

But after Fumo was convicted in 2009 on charges of defrauding the Senate and two nonprofits, Kenney and Fumo had a falling-out.

"If [Kenney] can come to peace with the Fumo past, I think he can recruit some good people," political media consultant Larry Ceisler said. "Fumo had a lot of good people working for him."

Whether Kenney digs into his political past - 12 years working for Fumo and 23 years working on Council - for administrative appointments remains to be seen.

But Nutter said that discretion was needed in the process.

Nutter's first official appointment, two days after being elected, was Finance Director Rob Dubow, who at the time was working for the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority, the agency that oversees the city's finances. But by then Dubow had been preparing for months.

"We probably had a couple of coded conversations, you know, kind of more nod and wink, 'Hey, if things kind of, sort of, what do you think?' But it was clear," Nutter said. "He knew very clearly from me that I wanted him in that position, and he communicated indirectly that he'd be open to that."


Inquirer staff writer Chris Hepp contributed to this article.