Mayor-elect Jim Kenney said Wednesday that Streets Commissioner David Perri will head the Department of Licenses and Inspections in his administration.
Perri, 57, has been streets commissioner since 2013. He will oversee a beleaguered department that needs an overhaul, as outlined by various reports over the last two years.
The agency has had its share of problems over time, but has been on particularly rocky footing since the fatal Market Street building collapse in 2013.
"L&I has been a severely badly performing department for quite some time now," Kenney said. "L&I's focus needs to be on building safety first."
Kenney said he had "unbelievable faith" that Perri can turn L&I around. Others agreed that Perri is a good choice to straighten up the department.
"I'm absolutely delighted," said Ned Dunham, a lawyer who was chief of staff to the panel Mayor Nutter appointed to examine L&I.
Former L&I Commissioner Bennett Levin called Perri "a man of impeccable integrity."
"If there's any one person who knows where the bodies are buried and can clean up the mess, it is Dave Perri," he said.
Perri, a registered professional engineer, rose through the ranks at L&I, ending up as chief code inspector and deputy commissioner before moving to the Streets Department. Perri has been a city employee since 1981, when he was hired as a construction engineer.
Perri served on the mayor's Special Independent Advisory Commission that looked at problems in L&I following the Market Street collapse. The panel last year recommended that L&I be run by an engineer. Its most dramatic recommendation, however, was that the department be split into a Department of Buildings and a Department of Business Compliance. Such a move would require a change to the City Charter.
Kenney said Wednesday he was open to the possibility. He said he wants L&I to focus on safety, but also wants the business side of L&I streamlined.
"Whether it is two different departments or not remains to be seen, but there are two distinct functions we need to address," Kenney said.
On Wednesday, Perri vowed to make public safety his priority.
"We want to see L&I become an aggressive and effective advocate for public safety," he said.
Perri will have a tough road.
A series of Inquirer articles in the last year documented several L&I failures, including construction completed without inspections, demolitions done without permits, and buildings checked by uncertified inspectors. City Controller Alan Butkovitz has also released reports citing persistent problems at L&I. Most recently, Mayor Nutter ordered that Inspector General Amy Kurland investigate whether L&I had followed new safety rules.
Taking over for Perri as streets commissioner will be Donald D. Carlton, currently deputy streets commissioner overseeing the Sanitation Division.
Carlton. 44, has worked for the Streets Department for more than 23 years, starting as a trash collector and rising through the ranks.
Kenney called Carlton a "wonderful Philadelphia success story."
He has said he is eager to take on the challenge.
"I look forward to ensuring clean, green, safe streets. . . . Safe city roadways, streets, bridges, and bike lanes," he said. "We will explore safe and efficient technologies."
In another round of musical chairs, outgoing L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams will take Carlton's job as deputy streets commissioner in charge of the Sanitation Division, Kenney said Wednesday.
Kenney called Williams a "good man" who as L&I commissioner had been asked to run a department for which he had no experience.
"That job was not a good fit for him. It never was," Kenney said.