Mayor-elect Jim Kenney on Monday appointed Sozi P. Tulante, a Harvard Law grad and current assistant U.S. attorney, who came to Philadelphia has a young refugee, as city solicitor.
"He wants the solicitor's office to be a change agent, to be an advocate for things and to move the city forward," Kenney said at a news conference at City Hall. "Not just, as I used to call it, 'the department of no.' [It is] going to be the department of possibilities."
Kenney was joined by eight current and soon-to-be members of City Council. The city solicitor's office represents Council and the administration, an arrangement that has created tension in the past and in the lead-up to Tulante's appointment.
After Council President Darrell L. Clarke expressed a desire for Council to have independent legal representation, Tulante made the rounds to individually meet each member. Kenney acknowledged the tension Monday and said Tulante will cater to Council and the administration's needs equally.
"He will listen and try to get them to where they need to be," Kenney said of Council. "And he has full rein to do that. This is not Council vs. the mayor."
The solicitor is the only administrative appointment that requires Council approval. The body is expected to hold a hearing on Tulante's confirmation in January, where nine votes will be needed to approve his nomination.
The Council members who expressed their support at the news conference were current members Jannie L. Blackwell, Bobby Henon, Curtis Jones Jr., Mark Squilla, and David Oh, and incoming members and Derek Green, Helen Gym, and Al Taubenberger. A ninth, Councilwoman Cindy Bass, gave her backing on Twitter after the event.
Clarke was not present. His spokeswoman, Jane Roh, said in a statement that Clarke "looks forward to a robust and informative confirmation process for Mr. Tulante."
Tulante and his family came to Philadelphia from what is now Democratic Republic of Congo when he was 8, as refugees fleeing a regime that had held his father as a political prisoner. He grew up in North Philadelphia, attended Philadelphia public schools, and went on to graduate from Harvard University and its law school. He has been an assistant U.S. attorney since 2010.
Though his history is inspiring, Tulante said Monday that he is "more than a story."
"I'm a lawyer's lawyer. I'm a nerd. I'm a geek. I'm an advocate," he said. "I love being in court. That's what I'm going to miss the most. And I want to take this as the opportunity to bring in fresh ideas and fresh faces to the Philadelphia Law Department."