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December 08, 2015

Kenney is off to 'Mayor Camp' at Harvard University

Networking among city politicians is a key benefit of event, says seminar's leader

Jim Kenney Mayor

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney is going to "Mayor Camp" at Harvard University's Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School.

Mayor-elect Jim Kenney is off to Harvard University – but just for the rest of the week.

Beginning with dinner Tuesday night, he’ll be at “Mayor Camp,” as the political science major from LaSalle University calls it.

Harvard being Harvard, the formal name is the “Seminar on Transition and Leadership for Newly-Elected Mayors.”

In other words, Mayor Camp, with a Harvard pedigree, and held in a nice hotel.

The event is overseen by Harvard’s Kennedy School Institute of Politics. It happens just every two years. Attendance is by invitation only and is done without cost to citizens or taxpayers. It runs through Friday.

The man who said he wants to meld the passion for constituent services of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley with the passion for Philadelphia of former Mayor Ed Rendell, might seem an unlikely candidate for boot camp, having already spent decades in city government, but he says he has more to learn.

“I’m a smart guy, but I’m never the smartest guy in the room. I like being around smart people and learning,” he explained Tuesday morning at a Chamber of Commerce event.

Kenney added he hopes to have an administration that is open to outside ideas, not an administration that just comes to the table with one idea and does not listen to others.

According to Christian Flynn of Harvard, the networking Kenney does at the seminar – and in the coming years – are likely to be the most valuable resources an experienced politician such as Kenney leaves with.

Kenney already has done some of the same sort of networking on his own.

Over the summer, he and his staff traveled to Pittsburgh, Boston and New York to speak with mayors and their staffs.

The mayor-elect will be at the Harvard seminar with mayors and mayors-elect from Austin, Charleston, Nashville, Memphis, Providence and elsewhere.

One of the presenters is Baltimore’s mayor, Stephanie Rawlings Blake, who will talk about crisis communications lessons she learned as her city roiled following the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody.

Other topics include how to negotiate the first 100 days, budget and finance, infrastructure, jobs and development, innovation, policing and using tech and data.

“The schedule is meant to facilitate discussions,” Flynn said.

Media and staff support are not allowed at the conference, he added. Costs are covered by an endowment from the family of President John F. Kennedy.