Our Mayor is Not the New Kid Anymore!

Our capital city’s mayor, Adrian M. Fenty, came to my Institute for Education INFO breakfast last week for his annual “State of INFO” address.

Let’s flash back to last year: Elected by winning every precinct in the District — yes, he won every precinct, trouncing then-City Council Chairwoman Linda W. Cropp — Fenty took office last January and came in charging like a bull. Two BlackBerrys and all.

He quickly took control of the city’s schools and appointed a novice chancellor to lead them. (Read my column about Chancellor Michelle Rhee here. Fenty told us he “drank the Michelle Rhee Kool-Aid” from the start.) He appointed the city’s first female police chief, Cathy Lanier — who rose up the ranks in the department and was supported by highly regarded former Chief Charles H. Ramsey.

Finally, he appointed Dan Tangherlini (former Metro general manager and the city’s former transportation director) as city administrator. Scuttlebutt says Tangherlini could be in the running to head up the U.S. Department of Transportation if a Democrat takes the White House.

Simply put, Fenty dazzled our group. Fenty is all about accountability, energy, visibility, pragmatism and leading from the front. He talked about better managing city agencies, and stopping crime before it happens by developing much-needed neighborhoods. He spoke of creating a world-class city — like Rome, Paris and London — one that has at its foundation a first-class school system.

He talked about fixing schools by improving teachers and principals: fewer teaching jobs obtained by stature, and more replaced and filled by educated, capable teachers. The politics have changed, Fenty told us, by saying this: The politics of patronage have been replaced by those of performance. How refreshing!

During our breakfast, the mayor announced the creation of the Mayors IFE/Swann Leonard Slatkin Award. Maestro Slatkin, who has been the National Symphony Orchestra Conductor and significant contributor to arts and education, is leaving our capital city after 12 years of inspiration and brilliance. He has brought international acclaim to the NSO and our Capital City.

At 38, Fenty is Washington’s youngest mayor. Watching him early in the morning last week, it was easy to see the energy he exudes, and the passion he brings to the job. Some of our IFE interns remarked with excitement how young he was! He is an excellent role model.

Next up, we’ll talk about his fitness regimen — and what keeps the mayor moving. Stay tuned!


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.