Richie Lazer’s got a tough job. As Mayor Jim Kenney’s Deputy Mayor for Labor, a position that former mayor and governor Ed Rendell insisted on but past mayors haven’t, he is the “point person on all labor stuff. It’s a lot of juggling,” Lazer, a 2014 South Philly Review Difference Maker, said.
Those inflated rats? The Readers’ Choice community activist winner knows all about them.
But his political career wasn’t always so City Hall-oriented. In fact, it mostly began at Burke Playground, Second and Jackson streets, just below the Whitman Library branch. It was 1st District Councilman Mark Squilla who brought out Lazer’s civic instincts. When Squilla helped secure nearly a $1 million in Burke improvements and create the Burke Community Fund, Lazer stepped in when his early mentor went to work on City Council.
“When he became councilman, I kind of took over running the group. And I ran for the board of Whitman Council and got elected by the neighbors and chaired the zoning committee – I’m still with Whitman and Burke as of today,” he said.
Lazer’s engagement is a certain stripe of community activism, dedication to making one’s immediate neighborhood great, inspiring folks to get involved, and passing it on to the next generation.
“One thing I believe is you have to build a team,” he said and cited the staffs at Whitman and Burke. “I’m big on a team effort and everyone pitching in – you put that together and it makes everyone succeed.”
Lazer was active in his Democratic ward, the 39th, and joined Kenney’s campaign team as his political director.
“I worked with a lot of labor leaders, elected officials, and ward leaders to build a coalition of supporters for Jim, working those relationships and endorsements out,” he explained.
But at his core, he believes principally in neighborhoods that are built up and maintained by active citizens.
“I really believe in getting involved. It’s always easy to complain and shout negativity but unless you get involved,” you’re not trying to make it better, he reasons. He’s got a three-year-old with his wife, Lindsey, and another on the way, and he plans on instilling them with the same spirit – “I’m very big on civic involvement, and you have to instill it in kids.”
Kenney, oddly enough, received enough votes to take second place, and Unity in the Community’s Anton Moore earned a healthy showing, too, receiving third place honors. — B.C.