Running Strong

“There is a ton to do.” That’s what D.C. Mayor Adrian M. Fenty told me recently when he visited my Institute for Education INFO breakfast for his annual “State of INFO” address.

Fenty has drawn headlines recently for his rigorous fitness regimen. He’s up early every day, and runs several miles a few times a week. He runs triathlons, marathons, hustles around town daily, not to mention being a father to two young boys — enough to wear out even the heartiest of souls.

But the mayor’s fitness regimen is a metaphor for his drive to succeed. You can see it in his eyes. During our early-morning breakfast, he captivated the group on a range of topics. He talked about former Baltimore mayor and now-Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, one of Fenty’s mentors during his run for the mayor’s seat in 2006.

Fenty explained that O’Malley wants to replace the politics of patronage with the politics of performance. “People just want government to work,” he said. “I see mayors in San Francisco, Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles subscribing to this.”

So what do people want, in Fenty’s view?

“People want government to work not just for them but for everyone in the entire city. In New York City, people say, ‘I like Bloomberg because I love that he is focused on education.’ I want people to say that I made a change for the better in the city I grew up in. To be honest, that is the only way I could sleep at night. I can’t make decisions only for politics.”

Amen. He finished by saying: “Politics is changing. People want results.”

As a successor to Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Fenty is a natural. In many ways, the two are opposites. Williams was a financial guru who built a foundation for the city’s then-ailing finances in 1999. At 37 years old, Fenty has set himself up perfectly to take over where Williams left off and bring new energy to unfinished business.

Oddly enough, the two are cut from similar cloth: They are decision-makers who know how to get things done.

When it comes to conversations, Fenty can also talk shop about national politics, not just District government issues. During our breakfast we talked about the city’s voting rights plight — an issue for which he and I share a passion. An Obama supporter, Fenty put himself into the throes of the presidential election early on, signing up with the Illinois senator from day one.

Which leads me to this question: Consider Fenty’s good looks, athleticism, drive and smarts, coupled with his devotion to Sen. Obama’s campaign. It’s all leading to ample chatter about a possible mayoral tenure cut short if Obama rolls into the White House next year. What could be next for Fenty?


Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership and civility locally, nationally and in the world community.