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Cherelle Parker speaks to supporters at her election night party on Nov. 7, 2023. Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi

Philadelphia Mayor and 2016 Fels Institute of Government graduate Cherelle Parker has started her term with three Penn affiliates in her administration.

Parker has tapped government officials, former campaign staffers, and nominees with experience in the nonprofit and private sectors. At least three members of Parker’s administration have relationships with the University’s graduate programs. 

Cherelle Parker, mayor

Parker earned her Master of Public Administration from Penn in 2016. She grew up in the Philadelphia public school system and has since spent years representing Philadelphia constituents in both the state house and City Council, where she maintained a significant focus on educational opportunity, economic development, and public safety.

Parker previously told The Daily Pennsylvanian that she sees her experience in public service as an example that a Penn degree can and should be used for positive impact.

“We can all come together to do this,” Parker said. “I will be a living example. When done well, we put our Penn credentials to work and we work hard to make life better for people.”

Parker signed three executive orders when she was inaugurated on Jan. 2, aiming to improve public safety, economic opportunities, and government visibility. These include a plan to tackle the city’s drug crisis in Kensington, as well as the eradication of the college degree requirement for city employment.

During her campaign for mayor, Parker emphasized the University’s responsibility to “impact Philadelphia in a way that will put others on a path to self-sufficiency” through educational opportunities. She also expressed support for Penn to make payments in lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, to the City of Philadelphia.

Adam Thiel, managing director

Adam Thiel is Parker’s appointee for managing director, having served as the Philadelphia fire commissioner under former Mayor Jim Kenney and director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management from 2019 to 2022. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in organizational dynamics in Penn’s Liberal and Professional Studies program.

Much of Thiel’s experience as commissioner included the city’s response to COVID-19 and increased activism following George Floyd’s murder in 2020, as well as being involved in leading the city’s response to gun violence and opioid crises. Prior to his roles in Philadelphia, Thiel was a deputy in the Arizona fire department and deputy secretary of Virginia’s Homeland Security and Veterans Affairs department.

As managing director, Thiel will be responsible for overseeing city department heads and serve as “essentially the city’s chief operating officer,” according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.

Tiffany Thurman, chief of staff

Tiffany Thurman, Parker’s new chief of staff, most recently served as the vice president of government affairs and social responsibility at the Greater Philadelphia YMCA. Thurman earned her Master of Public Administration from Penn alongside Parker in 2016. 

During Parker’s term as chair of the Philadelphia Delegation to the Pennsylvania State House, she appointed Thurman as executive director of the delegation from 2014 to 2016. Thurman also worked under Kenney as chief of staff to the parks and recreation department from 2016 to 2020.

As chief of staff, Thurman will be responsible for policy development, crisis management, and budget oversight, and strategic planning.

Parker’s top leadership structure is unique in that one individual usually serves as the main access point to the mayor — instead, Parker has appointed a trio, including Thurman. This system is intended to create a more “diffuse power structure” that allows for greater diversity of opinions, according to the Inquirer

Ami Patel, Deputy Budget Director

2019 Fels graduate Ami Patel was selected to be Parker’s deputy budget director, leaving her role as the deputy chief financial officer for Philadelphia City Council. Patel currently works part-time as a capstone advisor and teaching assistant at Fels. Her prior experience was in private sector technology consulting and nonprofit management.