Sitting before a room full of friends, sometime city officials, and history-minded onlookers at the National Constitution Center, Michael A. Nutter was smooth. Then again, you would expect nothing less from the former Philadelphia mayor and city council member, who started his public life as a DJ and bouncer at Broad Street’s Club Impulse.
Nutter mentioned his former employment early on during his conversation with Inquirer columnist and CNN commentator Michael Smerconish. Nutter even said he used many of the same skills he had once used as a bouncer while in office. “I had to remember a lot of people's names, I had to shake a lot of hands, and sometimes I had to throw someone out.”
Many of these stories appear in Nutter’s just-released Mayor: The Best Job in Politics, from the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Press. He’s currently working as a CNN on-air contributor and faculty member at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
Nutter never figured he’d become an author after his two terms as mayor ended in 2016. Yet the man who redefined himself “beyond being a policy wonk and a Wharton nerd” during his initial mayoral run by running ads portraying himself as a family man (he drove his daughter Olivia to her public school every morning) crafted an amenably fast and furious tome.
More than a job
Entertaining and crisply informative without too much demography and zero demagoguery, Nutter’s memoir makes the case for its titular claim. Though mostly refraining from commenting on current local and national administrations, he mentions Bob Brady leaving office (“We’re not supposed to die in these jobs”), President Trump’s State of the Union speech (“a disaster”), and the current mayor (“he’s doing a job”).
Beyond the laughs gleaned from those quick comments, Nutter and Smerconish also discussed the deaths of four on-duty police officers in 2008 with compassion and force. “It’s not about you,” Nutter said, but about the need to be there for the families and the fellow officers.
He happily took credit, in the book and during this chat, for campaign finance reform and the smoking ban. He wished he could turn back time and rethink his opinion of domestic partnerships. Ultimately, by heightening the rhetoric of personal contact and engagement with the Philadelphia public, Nutter turned the title Mayor: The Best Job in Politics into a mantra.