Anna Verna leaving Philadelphia City Council

January 24, 2011 8:55:09 PM PST
Philadelphia City Council President Anna Verna announced she'll retire rather than seek a 10th term representing South Philadelphia's 2nd District. At age 79, Verna's been a city employee since 1951. She stands to collect a lump sum payment of $585,000 as part of the city's much-maligned DROP (Deferred Retirement Option Plan) program which allows city workers to collect up to 4 years of pension payments over their last 4 years of employment while also collecting a paycheck.

Verna denied the bitter criticism of DROP influenced her decision.

Verna said: "I am the longest serving city employee. I am the longest servicing council member. I'm the longest serving president of city council."

Verna joins fellow Democratic council veterans Joan Krajewski, Donna Reed Miller and Republican Jack Kelly in not running again. All 4 of them have participated in the DROP program.

Verna's announcement triggers a showdown over succession: The 2 front-runners are Majority Leader Marian Tasco and Majority Whip Darrell Clarke.

"If I start talking about what a bring to a speculative position, then I'll be acknowledging that I'm interested in that position, which I don't think is the appropriate time to do this at this point," Clarke said.

"I've been here for some time," Tasco told reporters. "I've interacted with my colleagues. I've shown strong leadership qualities. We shall see what happens."

Winning the Philadelphia City Council presidency is the ultimate insider's game. Garnering a simple majority of council's 17 votes turns the trick so a lot will not be decided until it's clear who the 4 new members of city council will be.

Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter had nothing but praise for the retiring Anna Verna.

Verna's long goodbye will last through most of 2011. She'll preside over one more tight budget process in city council and it's coming up soon this Spring.