Philadelphia City Council

Kenyatta Johnson elected president of new-look Philadelphia City Council

Philadelphia City Council welcomed a diverse group of first-term lawmakers and new leadership

Newly elected Philadelphia City Council President Kenyatta Johnson

Newly elected Philadelphia City Council President Kenyatta Johnson Gilbert Carrasquillo/GC Images

The second day of 2024 ushered in a number of firsts in Philadelphia politics. Alongside the inauguration of Mayor Cherelle Parker, Philadelphia City Council welcomed a new, diverse set of lawmakers and elected veteran councilmember Kenyatta Johnson as council president. 

Johnson, a Democrat representing the Second District, replaces Darrell Clarke, who stepped down from his post after more than four decades in city government. 

“This new year is the dawn of a new era in a very exciting time in the City of Philadelphia, an era filled with hope and infinite possibilities,” Johnson said Tuesday, speaking on the diversity of council’s new makeup. “Our diversity is our strength, and in the birthplace of democracy, it truly exemplifies a governmental body where all citizens can have their voices and concerns heard.” 

Johnson wasn’t the only one to get a new title on Tuesday. City Councilmember At-Large Katherine Gilmore Richardson was elected the youngest majority leader in council history and Councilmember At-Large Isaiah Thomas was chosen as the majority whip. 

“I look forward to working in partnership with our next Council President and assisting our incoming members with smoothly transitioning into office,” Gilmore Richardson said in a statement. “I am eager to put to use my more than 20 years of experience working in and around this legislative body to advance the agenda of the Council as we work to create a safer, more resilient and equitable Philadelphia for all.” 

City Council also welcomed its newest slate of first-term legislators, including Democrats Rue Landau and Nina Ahmad, and Working Families Party member Nicolas O’Rourke, who beat out GOP candidates to earn the second non-majority seat on Council. 

Johnson, whose rise to leadership comes just 14 months after he was acquitted by a jury of federal bribery charges, noted the unique opportunity presented by the arrival of a new mayor and new councilmembers in City Hall. 

Johnson, like Parker a veteran of both City Hall and the state House of Representatives, previously told City & State that he and Parker have the “same passion and commitment to advocating and supporting and fighting for those most in need.” He has said his firsthand experience working with previous administrations, including those of Mayors Ed Rendell, Michael Nutter and Jim Kenney, will drive how he prioritizes tackling gun violence and improving community engagement throughout the city. 

During his remarks, Johnson also outlined a handful of priorities he says this administration and council should focus on immediately, including gun violence, equitable economic development, affordable housing, quality education and workforce and business development. 

“Good, effective leadership means we will agree more than we will disagree,” Johnson said. “This moment is too important to squander.”

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