Gauthier Plans to Make a Difference in City Hall
Jamie Gauthier seeks to significantly impact Philadelphia as a councilwoman, after years of serving the community in the non-profit sector. She was officially elected to the position on Nov. 5.
“My career has been about really helping Philadelphians to shape and develop their neighborhoods and I’ve always seen running for council as a more (impactful) and effective (ways) to achieve that,” said Gauthier, the former executive director of the Fairmount Park Conservancy.
Gauthier defeated longtime City Councilwoman, Jannie Blackwell, in the Democratic primary race. Blackwell, 74, represented the 3rd district since 1992 when she took over for her husband who had first been elected in 1974. Blackwell is known for helping underserved communities, the homeless while pushing for affordable housing and better schools.
For Gauthier, this year marked an ideal time for her to run against the powerful Democrat.
“I decided to run in 2019 particularly because I felt that the timing was right politically,” she stated.
“To me, it seems like for the first time Philadelphians were ready to kind of vote for some new people. I watched the Larry Krasner election and Rebecca Rhynhart’s election and it seemed to me that they indicated a wave of change.”
The 40-year-old West Philadelphia native says her background left her well prepared to serve on City Council. Prior to joining the conservancy, she served as executive director of the Sustainable Business Network and as a program officer at Philadelphia Local Initiative Support Coalition.
“My background has been in bringing residents to the table to form and to implement their own vision for where they live and that is what I think the charge will be for the 3rd district,” said Gauthier, who has master’s degree in city planning from the University of Pennsylvania.
“I think we’re in a time where people see their communities changing around them and they don’t feel like the change is benefiting them and they don’t feel like they have a voice. My approach will be to empower folks in the communities to make sure that their voices are heard and to make sure that we have a common vision - that we can communicate to the kind of folks who … want our communities to move forward.”
Gauthier wants to focus on addressing poverty, drawing businesses back to commercial corridors, instituting protections for renters, spurring more investment in public schools and ensuring that West Philadelphia has more equitable development.
“Because of the fact that we have so many jobs here, it’s going to continue to be a place where people will want to develop, but that development can’t happen at the expense of people who have been living here,” said the mother of two sons.
“We can’t turn into a place where you have to make a high level of income to live here. This should be a place where everyone can afford to live. My goal is to make sure that development happens in a way that is equitable and inclusive and happens in a way that benefits everyone.
I am incredibly focused on affordable housing and trying to find a way to negotiate and push developers to develop housing that is within the reach of the people who live here,” Gauthier says.
Ayana Jones is a Philadelphia-based journalist. She earned her bachelor’s degree in humanities with a concentration in journalism and mass communications from the University of the Virgin Islands.