Surprised? We know we were.
Most of Philadelphia was last week when Mayor-elect Michael Nutter named Temple Executive Vice President Clarence Armbrister as his chief of staff.
Aside from work as city treasurer in the mid-1990s, Armbrister has little experience in the political jungle of City Hall, and no professional connection with Nutter. Not to mention, Armbrister was one of only a few administrators left from former university President David Adamany’s tenure here.
But despite all that, there’s no question that Armbrister would make a capable chief of staff. In three-plus years as executive VP, Armbrister has had to balance the concerns of more than 40,000 students, faculty and staff members. His tenure has been marked by the admission of Temple’s four largest classes ever, not to mention the burgeoning population of students living around campus.
Armbrister has been the de facto mayor of our small city. Temple has dealt with many of the issues that plague the city as a whole – including labor disputes, housing crises and violence.
Of course, instead of a city of 40,000, Armbrister will have to balance the needs of nearly 1.5 million Philadelphians. The labor disputes will be with much more entrenched interests, the housing crises are insurmountable, and violence is rampant.
Not to mention, for all the reasons described above, Armbrister is an integral part of Temple’s administration. In an interview last week, Adamany called his right-hand man’s departure “devastating” for the university.
Armbrister was the university’s best connection to City Hall since Gregory S. Rost, who served as former-Mayor Ed Rendell’s top man from 1995 to 2000 and left to occupy the same position for University of Pennsylvania President Amy Guttman last December. While Armbrister may still be able to lobby on behalf of his former employer from Room 215, it will be a decidedly small portion of his work there.
When Mayor-elect Nutter won the general election last month, he called for the “best and brightest” to staff his administration. In this case, the university’s loss is indeed the city’s gain.