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January 02, 2024

Mayor Cherelle Parker delivers hopeful message at inauguration, says 'it's on us' to change Philly

The first woman to lead the city reflected on making history and laid out a plan to transform the city's approach to government

Government Inauguration
Mayor Charelle Parker inauguration Colleen Claggett/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker was sworn in on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024. She is the first woman elected mayor in the city and the 100th mayor in Philadelphia history.

Cherelle Parker beamed with optimism for Philadelphia's future Tuesday afternoon at her mayoral inauguration, where she made history as the city's 100th mayor and the first woman to take the oath.

Parker, 51, was joined by city leaders and members of her new administration as she spoke of a new approach to government during her remarks at The Met Philadelphia on North Broad Street.

RELATED: Cherelle Parker lays out plan to combat violent crime, boost police presence in first 100 days as Philly's mayor

"I want a revival at City Hall that brings out the best of Philly — a more efficient government, one that hears people, is an employer of choice and relies on intergovernmental collaboration to bring more resources to our city," Parker said.

Tuesday's event marked the year's first session of City Council and a changing of the guard at City Hall, where outgoing Mayor Jim Kenney has served the last eight years. City Councilman Kenyatta Johnson also was elected and sworn in as the next president of council, succeeding longtime president Darrell Clarke, who did not run for reelection in the 5th District.

Parker, a Democrat, vowed to bring together all of Philadelphia's leaders to move quickly on rolling out policies that will improve life in the city. She said every public official must be invested in seeking a shared vision and be accountable for bringing about changes that will directly benefit residents.

"I'm not talking about incremental change," Parker said. "I'm talking about bold, transformative steps that when people walk outside of their houses, they can touch, see and feel the results of our labor. If they don't see it, it's on us."

Cherelle Parker inaugurationColleen Claggett/for PhillyVoice

Philadelphia Mayor Cherelle Parker is pictured on stage at The Met with new City Council President Kenyatta Johnson.

Parker took time to reflect on her roots and the magnitude of Philadelphia choosing a Black woman to lead the city. She recalled the long journey from her upbringing in Mount Airy, where she was born to a single, teenaged mother and raised by her grandparents — a domestic worker and a disabled Navy veteran who received public assistance.

"By every statistic imaginable, I am not supposed to be here," Parker said, thanking the many role models and mentors who inspired her to achieve. "I can only tell you that a deep-rooted sense of gratitude is permeating in my heart and spirit since the people of our great city have given me access to this opportunity to serve them in a manner and a role that many thought would be impossible – you know, out of reach – for someone like me."

Parker said she plans to reshape the outlook of Philadelphia by delivering on her major campaign promises, chief among them to improve public safety and bolster city services.

"You deserve to see your tax dollars at work in your neighborhoods," Parker said. "You deserve policies that come from the ground up with the community involved at every step of the way. Gone are the days where we spend our time and energy focused on people, places and things that encourage us to wallow in our woes. Hear me, we will not feed into that."

Since her victory in November's general election, when she defeated Republican David Oh, Parker has been carefully planning her roadmap to address Philadelphia's most pressing issues. She said gun violence, neighborhood blight, underperforming schools and a lack of economic opportunity all have held Philadelphia back from reaching its potential.

Parker shared a 100-day action plan that outlines a series of steps her administration will take in the coming months to improve various facets of public life.

To address violent crime in the city, Parker said she aims to restore a model of community policing that fosters trust and makes neighborhoods safer for residents and businesses. She will declare a public safety emergency that prioritizes putting more police officers on the streets of hard-hit neighborhoods.

"We’ll use a holistic approach in our efforts to address public health and safety," Parker said. "We’ll stay focused on prevention, intervention and enforcement."

Heading into Tuesday's inauguration, Parker already had made several key appointments to her administration. Kevin Bethel, the School District of Philadelphia's former chief of safety, was sworn in as the next commissioner of the Philadelphia Police Department.

Cherelle Parker oathColleen Claggett/for PhillyVoice

Mayor Cherelle Parker takes the oath of office during the Philadelphia mayoral inauguration on Jan. 2, 2024. She is the city's 100th mayor and the first woman elected to the office.

In addition to pursuing new strategies to stop gun violence, Parker said Bethel's job will be to improve the quality of life in Philadelphia. Bethel will be charged with putting together a plan for reducing property and quality-of-life crimes like car theft, shoplifting and illegal ATVs on city streets.

"I want Philadelphia to know — I am fully committed to ending this sense of lawlessness, and bringing order – and a sense of lawfulness — back to our city."

Parker said she had plans to clean up litter, prevent illegal dumping and improve the efficiency of trash collection. Other initiatives include starting programs to expand affordable housing and home repair resources, eliminating obstacles to business growth and employment, and making schools more active in providing youth-focused activities outside normal learning hours.

Before she ran for mayor, Parker served two terms on City Council, representing the 9th District in West Philadelphia, and also spent a decade as a state representative for the 200th District. She said her track record in government and her relationships with state and federal leaders will be pivotal in obtaining the support Philadelphia needs to thrive.

One of the key models for her administration will be a series of formal roundtables that meet to target specific issues in the city. They will bring together experts and community leaders to generate solutions to problems such as homelessness, addiction, mental health, workforce development, housing and green initiatives.

"These roundtables will have active vehicles to make and implement new policy in the city," Parker said. "We want your ideas on how we can be more successful."

Parker finished her remarks calling on the city to embrace a spirit of unity under her leadership. She said she hopes to move Philadelphia away from only being able to describe its problems without having the resolve to fix them in practical ways.

"We want a government that can scale impact — take a solid program, expand what works, tweak what doesn’t — and serve more Philadelphians," Parker said.