From a young age, Jamie Gauthier watched her father give back to the community and advocate for Philadelphia’s public education system.
His activism inspired Gauthier, a 2000 accounting alumna, to pursue a career in public service and politics. She is now running as a Democrat for City Council in the 3rd District, which includes University City, Mantua and Kingsessing.
“I grew up with that ingrained in me and so I feel fortunate to have that opportunity to direct [my degree] toward a career that’s about more than myself,” said Gauthier, who has lived in West Philadelphia her whole life.
Gauthier is running against incumbent Jannie Blackwell, who has been the district’s councilwoman for six four-year terms. Blackwell succeeded her husband, Lucien Blackwell, who represented the district for 15 years.
Gauthier’s political career began by working with nonprofits around the city — most recently as the Fairmount Park Conservancy’s executive director from 2017-19. Her nonprofit work enabled her to support issues like affordable housing, locally-owned businesses and supporting parks, she said.
“Our City Council members have one of the highest opportunities to positively impact people and neighborhoods, and I feel that that’s where I can make the greatest contribution to helping people,” she said.
Gentrification is a widespread fear in her district, Gauthier said. She wants to confront the issue and preserve West Philadelphia’s diversity.
“I want to work with the residents of the 3rd District to fight against [gentrification],” she said. “One of the wonderful things about our community is that it’s so diverse and I think that it should stay like that.”
She added Philadelphia is the poorest major city in the United States. She sees poverty as an issue in West Philadelphia and hopes to promote the “economic engine” of the 3rd District.
Trevor Maloney, Gauthier’s campaign manager, said that 13 weeks before the primary election, Gauthier is already weeks ahead of most first-time candidates. Earlier this month, Gauthier received an early endorsement from political action committee 5th Square.
“What [Gauthier] represents is change,” Maloney said. “It’s an incredible legacy that the Blackwells have in this community and…it’s something [Gauthier] certainly respects.”
“At the same time, we can recognize that…it’s time for someone who can offer a new vision for this district, and [Gauthier] represents the future of this district,” he added.
One of the first challenges for a first-time candidate is gaining support from the political party, said Patricia Amberg-Blyskal, a Temple University political science professor. In the end, the voters in the 3rd District will have to decide which is best for their community — a new face and an opportunity for change in the City Council, or a familiar longtime candidate, she added.
“You need the support of the political party…’Is the party open to change? Is the party open to another candidate?’” she said.
Gauthier majored in accounting because she enjoyed math and problem-solving, she said. She worked at science and engineering company DuPont after graduating, but soon realized she wanted her career to better reflect her passion of helping Philadelphians.
So, she enrolled in the city planning master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania.
“It pulled together all of these things that were interests for me, and I didn’t even know I could do that as a career,” Gauthier said. “From there I graduated with a degree in city planning and that opened up this whole world to me of community and economic development.”
Gauthier is hoping to be a fresh face on City Council and is excited to bring new ideas to the community she loves.
“It’s where I live, it’s where I was born,” Gauthier said. “It’s one of the most vibrant places in the city. I love my neighbors, and I would be honored to represent them as their councilperson.”